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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
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June 23, 2010     Feather River Bulletin
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Plumas County Grand Jury Report Page 12 Ultimately, the Planning Director, who also serves as the County's Zoning Administrator, is charged with approving the Development Plan and EIR and then submitting his recommendation to the Board of Supervisors for final evaluation and approval. In most cases, the Board of Supervisors also sits as the Board of Directors of the new CSD as well as having responsibility for reviewing the performance of the Planning, Environmental Health, and Public Works Directors, setting their respective compensation, and approving each of the Department's operating budgets. The Grand Jury believes the department directors' close subordinate relationship to the Board of Supervisors creates an unreasonable posi- tion for senior staff. It also has potential to interfere with the Board providing objective oversight. Today there is a critical need for local county-elect- ed and appointed officials to begin restructuring this County's former dependence upon on-going, essentially "rubber stamped" master plan subdivi- sion approvals that historically generated an increasing property tax revenue stream that sup- ported the County's menu of services perceived to benefit the local resident population. Concurrent with the bursting of the national housing and real estate "bubble" beginning in 2004-2005, the County Chief Administrative Officer has observed and reported a new and distressing five-year or possibly longer trend in declining revenues associated with declining property values and associated assessed valuations. Early in its investigation of structural fire protec- tion this Grand Jury learned that subdivision mas- ter plans approved by the Planning Department prior to 1991 had no requirement to be included in a local district providing fire protection services. The ratio- nale offered focused on the potential expense to that category of parcel owners in gaining access to such services. Apparently omitted from any consideration was the number of years that lapsed prior to subdivi- sion build out; in Plumas County subdivision build out timelines stretch 20 or more years for most devel- opments. During those extended periods of years many things are subject to change except the absence of structural fire protection services. Now that Plumas County property owners have entered the 21st Century, it is clearly time for this past practice to be corrected for the good of all. There is a related concern as subdivision master plans continue to be approved within Plumas County. Almost without exception with each approval action the Board of Supervisors authorizes yet another small community water service utility with primary responsibility for emergency water supplies. Most often these developer recommended districts are pro- posed to serve very limited numbers of parcels in the range of 100 to 600. In fact, such subdivision approvals have created a needless proliferation of local utility districts that cannot economically pro- vide minimal essential services. As subdivision master plans continue to be approved within Plumas County the result is a continued prolif- eration of small FPDs or CFDs that are supposed to provide emergency fire protection services; in most cases the fact that these new districts are scaled to the subdivision proposed size renders them too small to be operated on a cost effective basis not dissimilar to the community water districts referenced above. Board of Supervisors Findings and Recommendations: Finding 1: The Board of Supervisors is doing next to nothing about the fact that so many residents and property owners have no fire protection. • In 1991, an agreement between State and Federal agencies removed fire fighting ser- vices from the majority of homes and parcels in Plumas County. County government offi- cials have known this for 19 years. • Until five years ago, Plumas County had a Fire Marshall. When that position became vacant, the Board of Supervisors chose not to fill it. • CAL FIRE does not provide fire fighting ser- vices in Plumas County. Recommendation 1: This Grand Jury believes that the Board of Supervisors has no other choice than to sue the State of California to obtain the same CAL FIRE firefighting resources that all other neighbor- ing counties enjoy. Finding 2: The Board of Supervisors has not been sufficiently involved with the land exchange agree- ments between the U S Forest Service and CAL FIRE. This continues to leave Plumas County without State fire services. Clearly the best interests of the County have not been served for years. Recommendation 2: The Board of Supervisors needs to take the initiative to be actively involved with all aspects of Fire Safety, and not allow the County to be under represented or unprotected now or in the future. Finding 3: The Board of Supervisors has not acted on recommendations by its own Emergency & Fire Services Advisory Committee. Recommendation 3: The Board of Supervisors must act on the committee's recommendations. Finding 4: No organization in Plumas County dis- closes with certainty if a parcel is located in a fire protection district. Recommendation 4: The Board of Supervisors will mandate that: • The Planning Department will disclose fire protection status for every parcel in the County (including fire protection district name or "no district"). • The Building Department will require written acknowledgement of that status from a prop- erty owner who applies for a building permit. • All sellers of real estate disclose fire protection status for any real estate sale in the county. Background: Reference Fire Services, Development and Appendix G Procedure The 2009-2010 Grand Jury instantly recognized the topic of Fire as a "hot button" issue on behalf of the county's residents and property owners. Investigated initially was the hazard of wildland fire and its impact on the urban-wildland interface of which almost all privately held parcels in the county are classified. The investigation first focused on the work of the Plumas County Fire Safe Council. The panel's recognition of the tremendous work this group is accomplishing allowed it to focus its investi- gation more precisely on Structural Fire Management within the County. The Grand Jury extended and focused its investiga- tion on four principal areas: • Approved parcels and structures outside of fire protection districts • State Responsibility and Local Responsibility Areas within Plumas County • Subdivision Development Approval Processes within Plumas County The committee's investigation obtained essential fac- tual information from the following: 1. County Administrator's Office 2. Board of Supervisors 3. County Council 4. County Planning Office 5. County Building Department 6. Local Agency Formation Commission 7. Local Fire Protection and Community Service Districts 8. Plumas County Emergency Services Advisory Committee 9. All websites associated with the above agencies 10. May 1 Power-Point Presentation made to Plumas County firefighters by Ray Zachau, Division Chief, Fire Marshal, South Lake Tahoe Fire Department: The 2007Angora Fire & What Went Wrong Documents reviewed by the committee: • California Master Cooperative Wildland Fire Management and Stafford Act Response Agreement, March 28, 2008 • Cooperative Fire Protection Agreement / Operating Plan (Between US Forest Service and ... CAL FIRE) May 15, 2009 • Plumas County Final Budget for 2009-2010 and previous years • Members of the Board of Supervisors concur- rently serving as Directors of local CSD Boards, LAFCo Board of Directors, and as employers of critical County Department Administrative Officials • Multiple Large Scale GIS County Maps pre- pared by Planning Department Staff • Plumas County Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission November 10, 2009, Workshop focused on the new County General Plan • California Association of Realtors®: STATEWIDE BUYER AND SELLER ADVISO- RY, SBSA Revised 4/07, page 4 (front and back) of 10 (e.g., standard form "disclosures") • FIRE HAZARDS, FIRE HAZARD SEVERITY RATING, standard form published by the Director of the California Department of Forestry (CDF) that identifies "Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones" • NATURAL HAZARD DISCLOSURE STATEMENT stan- dard form "disclosure" document published by DISCLOSURESAVE, Austin, TX. • Plumas County Emergency Services Advisory Committee - Recommendations for Fire Protection Improvement Standards The Committee Interviewed: • Board President, Plumas County Fire Safe Council • County Planning Director and staff members • County Building Official • Members, Board of Supervisors