Property rights key issue at forum: Residents voice concerns about open space program
Nevada County officials organized a Natural Heritage 2020 public forum on Tuesday at the recreation center to allow Truckee residents to express their views, concerns and questions about the controversial county-wide open space protection program.Although less attended than meetings in western Nevada County, which had more than 200 people at each forum, the 50 or so Truckee residents still voiced a variety of concerns.Truckee resident Chris Spencer wore a yellow “caution” arm band indicating how he felt about the program.”Most of the open space around my home is Forest Service land. Where is the protected open space going to come from? Are we talking about private or public land here?”Natural Heritage 2020 has been scrutinized by residents in western Nevada County. Groups such as the California Association of Business, Property & Resource Owners say the project may result in lower property values or development restrictions for private land owners.But program advocates across the county say the process is for collecting data about how to manage open space in the future. “How do you want Nevada County to look in 20 years,” was a recurring theme.Clearly stated in the meeting were the limitations of Natural Heritage 2020, and the mechanisms by which the data collection process would occur. One of the data collection processes, “the most important part,” Harrison said, is the public participation process.After an overview of the program and its directives, the meeting was divided into groups. Representatives of the Advisory Committee, the county or the town mediated group discussions, which began with the potential value of preserving open space.”It’s why we live here,” said Carol Fromson, a realtor from Truckee.Virtually all the members in the group agreed that a certain amount of growth was inevitable, and that directing or modifying how it occurred was critical.Among the most vocal topics was how the county could protect land.Financial incentives for donating development easements were suggested as one method, as were tax increases, selective extraction policies or partnering with local conservation groups.But residents were mostly concerned by how the process may lead to a violation of their rights.”It’s your property, and you should be able to decide what you want to do with it,” Fromson said.”I’d feel a lot better about it if there was a safety valve,” said John Godfrey of the town of Washington. “The fact that the whole thing is set in stone scares me.”Godfrey added that he was opposed to Natural Heritage 2020 originally, but after learning more about it, changed his position. “And I am the type of guy to put my foot down if I don’t like it.”Harrison reiterated at the end of the meeting that Natural Heritage 2020 is only a data collection process.No eminent domain proceedings are involved. No one will set foot on private property unless invited, she said.”Where this information takes us remains to be seen,” she added.The study is the mechanism by which the county hopes to implement General Plan policies calling for protection of natural resources. The county partnered with Sierra Business Council in designing the program.For more information contact Kateri Harrison at (530) 265-7058 or visit the Natural Heritage 2020 Web site at http://www.nh2020.co.nevada.ca.us.
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