Placer examines commissioner’s real estate deals
Placer County is investigating whether Tahoe’s representative on the Planning Commission violated California land-use law by circumventing the state’s Subdivision Map Act.
Questions were raised last month about Planning Commissioner Michelle Ollar-Burris’ involvement in parcel splits in Placer County that appear to be in violation of the state subdivision law, said Placer County Counsel Tony La Bouff.
La Bouff hired Attorney Rick Crabtree to investigate the sensitive matter. Crabtree also represented the county against recent litigation involving Tahoe City’s transit center.
The investigation has reached no conclusions yet, Crabtree said. The transactions are extremely complicated and the county requested Crabtree take his time on the issue rather than feel rushed, he said.
Crabtree said the state’s subdivision map act “regulates the division of land for the purpose of … sale, lease or financing.”
The map act stipulates that a single property may be split into four parcels or fewer. If the property owner wishes to divide the property further, he or she must undergo a subdivision map application, an extensive governmental procedure, before the new lots may be sold.
Crabtree said he is investigating whether Planning Commissioner Michelle Ollar-Burris violated the map act by splitting property into multiple lots through a series of successive parcel maps, avoiding the subdivision map procedure for splits of five or more lots.
District 5 Supervisor Bruce Kranz appointed Ollar-Burris to the planning commission in 2005. She is a real estate broker in the District 5 portion of Auburn, which includes the Lake Tahoe portion of Placer County.
Under normal circumstances, Ollar-Burris’ four-year term would expire in 2009, although a commissioner may resign, or be asked to resign, at any time.
“The county is taking these allegations seriously and resources are directed at investigating the matter thoroughly,” Kranz said in a released statement. “Until the investigation is completed, it seems unfair in the system with a presumption of innocence to prejudge the outcome or jump to conclusions.”
Suspicions of the commissioner’s land-use violations were brought to the district attorney’s office in 2005, said La Bouff. No action was taken on the matter at that time, but the issue resurfaced three weeks ago when Placer County received material that spurred further investigation, La Bouff said.
“It was my understanding that the [district attorney] dealt with this,” Kranz said in a phone interview. “…I had thought this was behind us a long time ago, but apparently it’s not.”
Although the investigation is not expected to yield quick results, Kranz said he would release information concerning the planning commission within a few days.
“I believe most citizens recognize a complete investigation of the charges requires time, effort and diligence to get all the facts and not just a quick political choice,” Kranz said in his statement. “I hope people will allow this process to complete its path.”
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