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Big Sur landowners rally against Fed buyouts

Published in The Carmel Pine Cone on October 8, 2004 - written by Chris Counts

If the sentiment at the Coast Property Owners Association meeting Monday was any indication, the movement to expand the preservation of open space in Big Sur is still making many local residents very nervous.

"There are two trends," CPOA secretary Charly Kleissner told the audience in a packed Big Sur Grange Hall. "First, this community is being bought out systematically. Second, private property owners are treated differently than public property owners."

The movement to preserve open space in Big Sur has stirred controversy among local residents for decades - at least since the 1970s, when legislation in Congress backed by Rep. Leon Panetta, Sen. Alan Cranston and famed photographer Ansel Adams sought to turn the area into a national park. The independent nature of Big Sur's small resident population has often been at odds with the bureaucratic control that seems to go hand in hand with good intentions to preserve natural resources.

Mike Caplin, CPOA president, believes the latest goal of the federal government is to control local open space by preserving the land now and changing its designation later.

"They want to buy it up and then draw a line around it," Caplin said.

The national park idea was defeated, but Congressman Sam Farr has suggested creating a [Big Sur National Forest.]

"Sam told me he wanted to provide more local control," Caplin recalled. "I said, 'If you want them to have more local control, let (Big Sur residents) have more input."

Caplin believes that the concerns of Big Sur residents are not being considered by government agencies and non profit organizations working to expand government-owned open space. In its mission statement, the CPOA declares "an effective partnership between private and public property owners is essential for a healthy and sustainable community."

Double standard?

There was general agreement at the meeting that private property owners in BIg Sur are treated differently than public property owners. As an example of the lack of scrutiny that government agencies are subjected to, Arden Hanshy commented on the recent removal of more than 1,000 eucalyptus trees from Julia Pfeiffer-Burns State Park.

"[The state] never received permits," explained Hanshy, who works as a land use consultant in Big Sur. "They had no plan to remove the trees. They were just going to leave them on the ground. There was no adequate restoration plan, no map and no description."

Hanshy joked, "I'm going to start [using this strategy with] my clients. It's much simpler."

In September, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors assessed a $25,000 fine against California State Parks - a fine that will end up being paid by taxpayers.

Bill Nye, a CPOA board member, pointed to the Brazil Ranch, which is now managed by the U.S. Forest Service, as another example of a public entity skirting the permit process.

"Their water system is not up to standard," Nye claimed. "They don't need a permit to expand their facilities."

Concerns were also raised at the meeting that, despite widespread public opposition, a proposal by the staff of the California Coastal Commission to protect views from boats passing along the Big Sur Coast has not been dropped.

"I'd like to suggest that boats be required to wear camouflage," joked Robert Carver, another CPOA board member. "Submarines would be exempt."

Not everyone at the meeting was in a joking mood, however.

"I have had neighbors sell their land because of all the rules required to build," Caplin warned. "We are being driven off this coast."

 

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