On Oct. 2, the County of Humboldt learned second-hand that as part of its bankruptcy reorganization, MAXXAM Corp. had floated a plan to develop 22,00o acres of second-growth, prime commercial timberland as an ultra-upscale housing subdivision. Called the “Redwood Ranch Development,” the 136 homes would each reside on 160-acre parcels and sell for $5 million each.
One problem: the land on which Palco envisions the development is zoned specifically for timber production and designated TPZ, for Timber Production Zones. Even though the county’s Forestry Review Committee is considering policy options for conversion of timberlands to residential development as part of the update to the 1984 General Plan, Palco evidently hadn’t cc’d the county with any of its subdivision plans.
The rest is history. The Board of Supervisors immediately renamed Humboldt County the Kingdom of Hurwitz, obviously angling for discount memberships in the Redwood Ranch Golf & Country Club.
If Palco had sat down and brainstormed ways to inflame latent resentment of Maxxam/Palco in Humboldt County, it seems they could not have found a better way. The company even claims that the “kingdoms” (yes, it actually uses that term) will boast “incomparable views” and “for some parcels, access to the Ancient Redwood Groves.”
The Supes quickly passed a 45-moratorium on building permits on TPZ land, ostensibly to allow the planning process to continue but also notifying Judge Richard Schmidt (and Palco’s creditors) that the Redwood Ranch’s Kingdom are a non-starter.
And since Humboldt is always up for another culture war clash, and this is prime fuel. No fewer than two anti-moratorium groups sprang up, invoking the specter of government taking away private property rights. And right along with the well-thumbed HumCo script, the usual heated public hearings ensued. Bloggers did everything they could to personalize the issue, and newspapers reflected their varying political temperaments with editorials and letters… you know the story, and there’s a lot more to it than this hasty summary.
Ultimately, the supervisors chose not to renew the moratorium. But the central issue remains – should development on TPZ lands be allowed even if the housing isn’t “necessary for the management of timberland?”
As Humboldt Review Host Emeritus Hank Sims points out in this week’s Journal, there are many – Hank puts the figure at 1,700 – property owners other than Palco who would be affected by any .
One of those is Eureka attorney Bill Barnum, who staunchly opposes the moratorium and the land use restriction, and who I’ll be interviewing this morning.
That’s our main topic. The opening segment will be a talk with Humboldt State University Economics Professor Steve Hackett, who has just completed a study which attempts to put hardfigures on Humboldt County’s cannabis-centered underground economy.
Our final segment will center on the fortunes of the Arcata Bicycle Library, which has been without a home for several months.
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