Coastal Post Online


May, 2004

Let There Be Light
By Judy Borello

No sooner were the elections over with than County Supervisor Steve Kinsey heralded a potential new policy limiting homes on ranches to 3,000 square feet. How absurd and unfair is this? Especially when there are so many restrictions on agricultural land. Fist of all, it's zoned A-60 (one house per 60 acres), then 95 percent of the ranch land must stay open space and there is no way the county will allow a rancher to divide his ranch into 60 acre parcels and build a home on every parcel even though that's the law. Ninety percent of ranches are in the Williamson Act which does not allow for development of homes and some ranches are under MALT easements which permanently takes away any and all development.

Then, of course, topping this all off is the Coastal Plan which really is even more restrictive about homes in this zone. Just ask Joe Brubaker or Mr. Varlow. One had 90 acres and wasn't allowed his home and the other had 200 acres and wasn't allowed his home!

All over the county on a lot smaller parcels there are homes of 3,000 square feet and over. Take a three acre lot right next to me on McDonald Lane on which a home over 5,000 square feet with six bathrooms is just being completed. There are new 3,000 square foot homes on Nicasio lots of three, four and five acres. There are homes in Inverness of this caliber on smaller lots than this and what about Belvedere and Tiburon where there are wall to wall homes with little acreage between them.

It seems a little ridiculous that the more land (1,000 acres), the smaller the house!

With ranches already having 4,000 square foot homes and large families which will grow up in ag, this is a bitter pill to swallow. The county always purports to keep agriculture sustainable but its actions are just the opposite. What really stunned ranchers of the Marin County Farm Bureau -- the true voice of agriculture -- was that most backed Steve Kinsey and right before the election even honored him with "A Friend of Agriculture" award. Then bam, right out of the chute, he comes up with this new restriction. It was all pre-planned amongst his cohorts that if Steve got re-elected, this would be the first thing on the agenda (unbeknownst to the ranchers). Some of them blame Steve, some blame Alex Hinds, some blame Bob Berner and some blame Brian Crawford. Truthfully, I'm not going to point the finger at any one of them, but I'm quite sure this ill-conceived plan was determined by all of them to be "the way to go" if Steve was re-elected.

Probably after the Hyatt family won their rights last year to put homes on their newly acquired ranch in Nicasio Valley with a whole fleet of attorneys to insure the family's right to build on five percent of their land (which actually the family used three percent of the land), the powers-that-be decided to take away these land-use rights for anybody else.

This constant haranguing of rights being compromised and more regulations and restrictions have caused many a rancher to either leave Marin County or contemplate it. Most ranchers are not happy campers. They are worrisome, disgruntled, and feel totally ambushed time after time by the county and the unreasonable environmentalists who want open space everywhere including removing all farm animals from grazing on ag land.

With most ranchers spending immense amounts of time defending, watching their back for the next onslaught and going to meetings day in and day out for years as the pace picks up, it's no wonder they're miserable! (But more determined than ever to push back on issues that keep coming at them.) Such as not testing the bay with the methods that will prove the facts of pollution beyond a reasonable doubt instead of perception and conjecture.

When oysters die, who gets thumped on? The ranchers! When pollution is perceived in the bay, who gets a myriad of rules and restrictions? The ranchers. The only change around Tomales Bay in significance is the amount of oyster growing and fewer cows. From a rancher's point of view, it is not only unfair but unjust! They have said over and over again, "What are the power-that-be, the zealot environmentalists, going to dream up next to justify their jobs?

And they call this keeping ranching sustainable. Well, it's not, it's doing the opposite!

PS One example of the hypocrisy in the low cost housing going into downtown Point Reyes Station: thousands of square footage housing on 11 acres of land, but the cause is good so forget the rules!




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