Thursday, August 23, 2012

Twice Screwed

When I read “'Shaded' parcel owners, staff meet” in today's Times-Standard, once again I had confirmation as to why the wife and I were not going to invest in rural Humboldt County property. Another good reason is the California Fire Tax, but that's another article. Here is a classic situation where the innocent victim is made to pay for the crimes of another. These people, through no fault of their own, having over a period of years in most cases possess a large investment in time, health and treasure are, well after-the-fact, faced with the state's legal threat putting it all in jeopardy. Rather than try to protect these people's investments, they try to force them to do what the County Planning Department failed to do over an extended period of time. And then, on top of that, make them pay for it. You know what they are trying to do is wrong when they do everything behind closed doors. This is a classic shake-down – legal extortion.

It was when I read this portion of the article that I remembered back to the untold number of times over the years that I heard the same kind of talk from a lawyer that I had just paid a small fortune to represent my best interests:
 “Local attorney Eric Kirk is representing about one-third of the Seely Creek property owners. He said the next step for many of his clients is to file for a conditional certificate of compliance with the county. The certificate would outline the improvements required to make each plot legal, such as bringing sewer systems up to code. 
Kirk said the certificate could cost his clients anywhere from $300 to $1,700, depending on whether new parcel maps or surveyors have to be utilized. In the meantime, he said his clients will be looking for documentation, such as building permits, titles and deeds to prove their lots are legal. 
Kirk said it appears the county wants to resolve the parcel problem in a way that is as painless as possible
”I'm getting that once they have the conditional certificate of compliance, they've done their due diligence in the state,” he said.” 
Does that sound anything like this property owner?
Seely Creek property owner Georje Holper said she's frustrated with how the county is handling the issue. 
”To put the burden on us is not right,” Holper said. 
As a group, the property owners said it's the county's responsibility to determine the legality of the parcels -- especially since they didn't know the parcels were illegal when they were purchased. They said the county doesn't have any records of when the parcels were shaded or by whom, so the burden of proof is on the county. 
 Compare what Eric Kirk says to this:

Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights Chairman Lee Ulansey said he knows for a fact that some of the properties were shaded by people who simply took a pencil to the antiquated maps. He said the maps aren't kept under lock and key, so access to the records isn't monitored. 
Ulansey said the county has gone about the shaded parcel issue the wrong way, pushing Hum CPR -- a private property rights organization -- to file a lawsuit against the county in April. He said the county needed to do more research on each parcel before simply declaring them all illegal. 
”They need to get to that solution before they disrupt people's lives,” Ulansey said. [Emphasis added]
 So, with a stroke of a pen, all these people own "illegal" property. And Eric Kirk says the best thing for all of these people is to "file for a conditional certificate of compliance with the county." In other words, these inadvertent "illegal" property owners need to take personal legal responsibility for purchasing and owning their "illegal property". That way the County can walk away free and clear. Never a thought about making the County be accountable for their negligent irresponsible acts. Just make the people with everything to lose, pay and pay.

"Painless as possible" - Yeah! Right. TWICE SCREWED.


  1. Thank you for posting on this issue. Unfortunately the whole problem is simply not interesting enough for our local daily to print anything in depth and the Journal who might typically take it on is siding with the anti rights/ anti rural crowd. As a result once again the "little guys" are sacrificed. This is another example similar to Code Enforcement where the planning department has acted with a heavy hand prior to considering the consequences. A major attitude adjustment and significant personnel changes are required if we are to avoid more of the same in the future. We should keep in mind that next time it could be any of us. Perhaps if we "occupied" the Planning Department our supervisors might get the idea and start taking action.