The Coastal Post - December, 1995

Down And Dirty

Not only has the lack of common sense prevailed in a ruling by the Marin Planning Commissioners, so has unfairness, inequity, extortion and the taking of a man's land-use rights.

Mr. Varlow was to build a 6,000 sq. ft. home, three-car garage, and a barn on his 90 acre parcel along the east shore of Tomales Bay in an area that is zoned A-60 (one house per 60 acres). Also another of the restrictive rules is that you cannot develop over 5% of your property. Varlow was only developing 3%, and his land is not in ag preserve as it is a privately-owned, 90-acre parcel which Mr. Varlow, a non-rancher, has held title to for many years.

County Planner Andrea Fox had recommended in September that the commissioners approve the project with some minor changes. The decision of the Planning Commission was delayed pending a clear plan for ag use of the property. At that time County Planner Fox had determined that the Varlow project was consistent with the surrounding environment and county and coastal policies.

However, on Monday, November 13th, the permit was denied by the Planning Commission in a 5 to 1 vote. Varlow had turned down an agreement to deed 95% of his land to MALT (Marin Agricultural Land Trust).

Varlow called such policies "governmental extortion" and asked, "How can they justify asking for an easement for 95% of my land when the protection CA-60 zoning already exists? I think the entire demand is unconstitutional."

Varlow, outraged by the commissioner's "illegal" behavior, vowed to take his case "all the way to the Supreme Court."

When Planning Commissioner Art Mills of Pt. Reyes Station made statements such as, "It will stimulate other conversion from ag land to ranch-style estates," he is either using false verbalization as a scare tactic to keep the environmental zealots and ultra-left wing socialists all stirred up, or he has a dramatic lack of knowledge concerning the ag land on the east shore of Tomales Bay.

Varlow's 90-acre parcel was never a farm, nor is Varlow a rancher. The agricultural land owned by ranchers is not only under A-60 zoning, 95% of it is under Williamson Act (ag preserve) which adds another layer of protection.

On top of that layer of protection some ranchers have MALT easements, which is a triple protection, so the paranoia and false presumptions that agricultural land will become loaded with mini-estates all along the east shore of Tomales Bay is absolutely wrong.

If Mr. Varlow chooses to keep 95% of his land in open space and not farm it or put animals on it to graze, he has not hurt agriculture and, frankly, from an environmental point of view, what more could you want?

This forcing of a MALT easement and all this hoopla about ag protection on the Varlow project is just a ploy to deny Varlow his land-use rights.

The Varlow home would not sit in close proximity to the Marshall village where the East Shore Planning Group claims the Varlow home is out of keeping with its 1,500 to 2,000 sq. ft. homes. Varlow's project is miles south of the village and has larger ranch homes surrounding it.

Most ranches on the east shore are not against Varlow's project.

Many of us ranchers on the east shore of Tomales Bay facing the west shore of Inverness are really getting justifiably angry with the elitist socialistic propaganda of some Invernessian zealots who want us to maintain their picture-perfect view shed while they subscribe to building and rebuilding homes across the Bay in our non-picture perfect view shed. All of the protests concerning the Varlow house sprung out of selfishness and jealousy and most of all, lack of respect for someone else's property rights.

Some opponents to the Varlow project have vilified Mr. Varlow, making him out to be some kind of greedy developer as one of the smoke screens to get rid of his house because they already know he has met county requirements.

Many environmental zealots have become so mean-spirited and pumped up with righteous indignation that they go around turning their neighbors into the County or the State based on vengeance, assumptions, and speculations. The East Shore Planning Group were just taken to task by residents of Marshall for just that sort of thing.

What stank the most to me was the quote in the Pt. Reyes Light of Felix Knouth in last week's issue. It went beyond gloating over a man's (Varlow's') misfortune, which Knouth helped cause. Knouth's statement shows the caliber of the meanness and cruelty with which these zealots treat their fellow neighbor. Mr. Knouth said, "I'm thrilled, I'm excited, I'm delighted. I'm laughing all the way home."

His comment came after hearing that Mr. Varlow's house was nixed. Maybe Mr. Knouth, since you are totally devoid of integrity and sensitivity, someone will loudly applaud your misfortunes should they ever befall you.

Mr. Knouth's statements go on with ultra-liberal socialistic slogans, such as "agriculture has been vindicated, the Marshall community has been vindicated." Vindicated from what, I ask you? Ag was never oppressed, nor was the Marshall township ever oppressed by Varlow's home. His home would be down south of the town of Marshall by three miles, and the neighboring Jim Furlong ranch, and Borello ranch, and if he chooses not to grow crops or raise animals on his 90-acre parcel, it won't hurt our agricultural operations in the least.

Being a common-sense conservationist, a rancher, and an advocate for fair dealings in land-use rights, I believe Varlow got a really raw deal. The decision of nixing his house was based on smoke screens of hysteria, which were done to make you believe the whole east shore is going to develop wealthy estates tomorrow, which it definitely can't, and to force an ag easement on this project wouldn't accomplish much of anything and if Mr. Varlow chose to leave 95% of his land in open space, the environmentalists should be overjoyed!

P.S. I was informed by Bob Berner, executive director for MALT, that even though his wife, Planner Barbara Garfien is Steve Kinsey's campaign manager, he is not endorsing anybody for supervisor.

P.P.S. Happy Holidays to all and remember Peace on Earth, Good Will towards man!