February 5, 2020 — The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 yesterday to move ahead with an enforcement plan on Measure V, the voter initiative that declares dead standing trees a nuisance.
The wording of the motion at the end of an hour-long public comment session does leave room for negotiating with key players, as well as the ad hoc committee which is trying to resolve the issue. That committee consists of Supervisors Ted Williams and John Haschak.
County Counsel received orders to come back to the March 24th Board of Supervisors meeting with an enforcement plan focused on “mitigating expense and a firmer intention to collaborate with industry to reach compliance with a willingness to fast track alternatives where possible.” While concerns about litigation from Mendocino Redwood Company may have played a role in the county’s reluctance to pursue enforcement since the voter initiative became law in 2016, the company has never directly threatened a lawsuit. Company representative John Anderson said MRC had no position on a lawsuit at the time of the meeting.
In December, Terrie d’Selkie, who lives near MRC-owned land, filed a complaint with the county, alleging that the company was violating the nuisance ordinance. Interim Code Enforcement Officer Trent Taylor said he went to the Big River drainage d’Selkie described, but could not see dead standing trees from his vantage point.
Taylor said he was unable to ascertain if there was a violation of the ordinance. Supervisor John McCowen provided his interpretation of the law, saying that Measure V is “self enforcing,” and that injured parties may sue the company for harm they have suffered from its practices. He added that the ordinance does not appoint an enforcement officer.
But Rosamond Crowder, from south of Willits, used her public comment time to ask about the details of code enforcement. While most ordinances do include the details alluded to by McCowen, County Counsel Christian Curtis said that “not every ordinance does have an explicit reference” to particular penalties or enforcement mechanisms.
Isaiah Davis of Comptche worried about the fire hazard of dead standing trees, which was a major argument in favor of Measure V during the campaign. He told the board that he doesn’t think someone who has just lost their home to a fire would have the resources for a lawsuit.
After some prodding from Supervisor Dan Gjerde, who wanted to know what the Measure V ad hoc committee’s recommendation was, Williams moved to draft the enforcement plan, while leaving other options open as well. Gjerde seconded the motion. McCowen cast the lone dissenting vote.