Town will draft resolution opposing Measure D
After two hours of heated debate and discussion, the Town Council directed town staff to draft a resolution in opposition to Measure D – the Nevada County Property Owner Claims Reimbursement Process Initiative.
The decision came after the council heard testimony from proponents and opponents of the initiative, and after debate among council members as to the importance of the council taking a stand on the issue.
The initiative, if passed in November, would establish a process for payments to property owners if a court determines that a county regulation or action reduced the value of the property.
A property owner, though, can currently file a claim in court if the property owner is subject to a physical or regulatory taking of land by the government. A court would then make a decision based on precedent and the existing body of law.
Although Measure D deals with land in the unincorporated areas of Nevada County, the Truckee Town Council identified the issue at a past meeting as one of significance to Truckee voters.
In a 3-1 vote the council decided to draft a resolution in opposition to the measure after discussing the philosophical and practical aspects of the initiative.
While the council agreed with the philosophy of property owner rights, they also worried about how the initiative would play out in practice.
Councilwoman Maia Schneider was the only councilmember who voted against drafting the resolution, arguing that the council shouldn’t take a stand on something that it doesn’t understand.
“The bigger question is the philosophy of taking a stand on something that we can’t get our arms around,” Schneider said.
The other council members argued that that is exactly why they should take a stand on Measure D.
“We don’t understand it and we’ve been working harder than most of the voters,” said Councilman Don McCormack, noting that the council has access to town staff for reports and analysis.
Councilman Josh Susman questioned the wording of the initiative and said that it’s impossible to determine the meaning of the measure with certainty.
“It’s takings in sheep’s clothing. It’s givings,” he said.
Councilman Ted Owens agreed.
“You let me down in how you went about doing it,” Owens said to the initiative’s drafters. “If this was a staff report, we would have sent it back.”
Before making their decision, the council heard public comment from both sides, touching on issues as complicated and diverse as land use, zoning, the county budget, bureaucracy and social services.
Much like the council’s concerns, some people chose to comment on the language of the initiative.
“When the end comes and people have to vote, they will be voting on the language of the ballot measure,” said Truckee resident Steve Frisch. “The thing that will have the force of law is the language.”
Mountain Area Preservation Foundation representative John Eaton said the measure would eat away at zoning and land use laws, but also undermine the economic system by which America is based.
“We live in a capitalist society and in a capitalist society you take a risk [on investments],” he said. This measure, he argued, is an “ingenious” was for property owners to avoid that risk.
Nevada County Supervisor Barbara Green commented on the implications of the initiative and the effects it could have if passed.
“If it passed it would be a law, we would have to adhere to the specific law and interpretations would have to be made by a court of law,” she said.
Green also expressed concern that the initiative would provide for “a guaranteed return on investment paid for by the tax payers” that could bankrupt the county in a few years.
The proponent of the initiative, though, didn’t buy their arguments.
“The opposition has made it sound like it’s the end of the world,” said Gregg Lien, a Tahoe City attorney who lives in Nevada County. “There needs to be careful consideration of what’s going on here.”
Ben Nowland, a member of the Citizens for Fair and Balanced Land Use, said the fiscal impact analysis drafted by Nevada County regarding the initiative uses some “far out exaggerations.”
Pat Davison, field director for the California Association of Business, Property and Resource Owners, asked the council to at least accept the measure in concept, even if they could not support in as written.
“Whittling away at a property owner’s reasonable expectation of use … with regulation after regulation is not only frustrating and potentially harmful to the property owner, but does nothing to educate the public about the value of private land and the cost of open space,” Davison said.
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