By CHRIS COUNTS
Carmel Pine Cone Jan. 17-23, 2014

TWO PROPOSED Monterey County ordinances — one for the inland area and another for the coastal zone — would require owners of property on private roads to prove they have the right to use the roads when submitting permit applications for development and a wide variety of uses.

While single-family homes would be exempt from the Proof of Access ordinance, many other projects and activities— from building a guest house, to offering short term rentals— could be subject to it.

“If you’re going to build a second house on your property, or have a commercial venture on it, that could intensify the use of the road, and that would trigger the requirements of this ordinance,” county planning director Mike Novo said at a Dec. 17 Monterey County Board of Supervisors hearing.

 

After listening to public comments about the ordinance, supervisors continued the hearing to Feb. 25.

The ordinance would require that anyone seeking “an intensified use” of a property located on a private road notify their neighbors of their intent and — if that activity requires a permit from the county — show evidence that such an activity is permitted by an existing road agreement. If they can’t prove it, they may need the consent of their neighbors before the county issues a permit.

Under the new ordinance, if the county were to allow short term rentals in Big Sur, for example, anyone who wanted to use their house for short term rentals would be required to show the planning department proof that the traffic generated by renting the house wouldn't violate the agreement governing their private road. The same could hold true for anyone hosting weddings or special events.

Some residents complain the ordinance will place too great a burden on applicants and give their neighbors too much power. At the Dec. 17 hearing, Big Sur resident C.W. Freedman blasted the proposal.

“I think this a horrific ordinance,” Freedman suggested. “It’s so anti-democracy.”

At the same hearing, Carmel Valley resident Margaret Robbins defended the ordinance. “If followed, there’s a chance for both sides to come to a compromise,” Robbins said. “It eliminates the chaos that happens right now.”

Also speaking out on the ordinance was architect Michael Waxer, a member of the county’s streamlining tax force. At the hearing, Waxer called the ordinance “The Disgruntled Neighbor Empowerment Act of 2013.”

In an interview this week with The Pine Cone, Waxer said improvements have been made to the ordinance since the hearing, but it still needs refining.

“It shifts all the power to an angry neighbor,” Waxer said. “It sets up a pre-condition that places a burden on the applicant. You’re going to encourage more people to do things under the radar.”

On his KUSP radio show in December, Gary Patton called the ordinance “a truly radical proposal.”

“When a proposed new land use development would occur on a private road — and there are many of those in Monterey County— the ordinance being considered would appear to require every landowner on the road to agree to the new use, before the county could approve it,” said Patton, the one-time executive director of LandWatch Monterey County and a former Santa Cruz County supervisor. “This is, in essence, a delegation of land use approval authority from [the supervisors] to the neighbors.”

If passed by supervisors, Patton speculates, the ordinance “would probably make most new developments in rural areas impossible.”

Lloyd Jones, who lives in Palo Colorado Canyon, said he’s concerned the ordinance will create more disputes than it solves.

“Requiring an applicant to poll neighbors as to their opinions of a change on a private parcel feels like an opportunity for chaos,” wrote Jones in a letter to county officials. “Some private roads have upward of 40 parcels, and kudos to anybody who can find unanimity among that many neighbors on anything.”

According to Jones, such a scenario—which brings together “poorly written grant deeds,” “simmering neighborhood disputes” and “self-appointed road commandos” — “is not fertile ground for agreement.”

 

NOTE: The G16 Coalition is studying this countywide “proof of access” ordinance which forces property owners on private roads to first get approval from other property owners on a private road before building a structure or engaging in a business, which would include granny units, short term rentals, etc. Only the construction of a single family house is exempted. If approved by the Monterey County Supervisors, this ordinance would empower neighboring property owners to control what an individual property owner does with his or her property—a sort of communal mob-like control that supersedes individual control of private property. Usually this type of land-use control is determined by planning departments and/or county officials.

The next hearing is Feb. 25, 2014 in Salinas at the Monterey County Supervisors chamber.