Want To See the ‘Shaded Parcels’ that HumCPR is Concerned About?

Hank Sims / Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011 @ 4:01 p.m. / News

The Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights today lashed out again at the county over the issue of “shaded parcels” — parcels that, for whatever reason, are of uncertain legal status. In a press release, HumCPR announced that it has filed another Public Records Act request that is aimed at uncovering what the state of California might have to say about how these parcels are classified. (Full press release below.)

Now, the “shaded parcel” classification merely means that the county Community Development Services Department doesn’t know how said parcels ended up on the map. It could be — as in the case of Ken Bareilles’ Titlow Hill development — that the land was illegally subdivided. Or it could be something else completely: say, that a land subdivision happened through legal channels and Community Development for some reason didn’t know about it. The county has recently hired someone to go through the list of these things in an attempt to determine what’s up — to “unshade” them, in essence.

If you’re curious where the “shaded parcels” are, and how big they are, and how many of them there are, then you might want to take a spin on the following interactive map that the Lost Coast Outpost threw together a few weeks ago in an attempt to get a handle on the issue.

Three caveats. One: remember, you don’t know anything about these parcels — whether they’re illegal or legal or what — except for the fact that the county likewise doesn’t know, and so has put them on a list. Two: Don’t hit the “download” button, here — you’ll end up with half a gig of data and you probably won’t know what to do with it. If you want it, talk to me and we can work something out. Three: I never put a “zoom” button on this thing, but you can zoom in and out with your scroll wheel.

Yes? Then follow me after this map because I have one more thing to say and you’ll want to see the HumCPR press release.

Cool, right?

Now, the HumCPR press release notes the especial ire of the area’s title companies in relation to the “shaded parcels” issue. Quote:

They [the title companies] believe that the process the County has outlined to address this problem may “lead to a false sense of security, which may have drastic results…” They go on to say that, with respect to the innocent purchasers of bonafide illegal parcels, “due to the length of time that the County has ignored its responsibility … many responsible parties can no longer be held accountable…”.

The question I have about this concerns the “innocent purchasers of bonafide illegal parcels.” Why are the title companies themselves not among the “responsible parties” in such cases? The whole point of a title company is to verify that land transactions are above-board. If a large landowner illegally subdivides his lot and sells off 40s or 160s, then, in every case, a title company stamps the deed and collects a hefty fee. This has been true since time immemorial.

If there are illegal subdivisions out there, didn’t the title companies help create them? Enlighten me.

Today’s HumCPR press release follows:

HUMCPR SEEKS ANSWERS FOR HUMBOLDT COUNTY PROPERTY OWNERS

Follow-up public information request aims to clarify “shaded parcel” classifications 

Eureka, CA: As a follow-up to HumCPR’s August public information request for the Humboldt County Planning Department to release a list of land parcels considered to have questionable legal status (shaded parcels); HumCPR is now asking the County to release additional information regarding how the State of California views many of these parcels.

HumCPR is aware of communication, going back at least 7 years, between the California Department of Transportation (Cal-Trans) and County officials over the County’s position of classifying remnant parcels created by State acquisition in the furtherance of road improvements projects, as “shaded parcels.” In a 2011 letter the State asserts that “a continuation of this practice might create certain implications for the State, and can also expose the County to claims by property owners …”

A February 2004 letter from the State expressed opposition to how the County was handling remnant parcels created by State highway acquisitions. The State cited several Code Sections and court decisions exempting the State from local governmental control over State acquisition activities. These exemptions ranged from “impairing the State’s sovereign powers” to a State Supreme Court decision which states that “municipal governments –which are created by the State – cannot have superior power over the State …”

“The classification of parcels as ‘shaded’ at the new interchange at Alton, as well as various improvement spots along Highway 36, are just some examples of what HumCPR feels is bureaucratic overreach by the Planning Department and the County Counsel’s office,” said HumCPR President Lee Ulansey.

Local title company officials have also voiced their concerns for the process that the County has outlined to address the nearly 2000 “shaded parcels” currently in existence. They believe that the process the County has outlined to address this problem may “lead to a false sense of security, which may have drastic results…” They go on to say that, with respect to the innocent purchasers of bonafide illegal parcels, “due to the length of time that the County has ignored its responsibility … many responsible parties can no longer be held accountable…”.

Mr. Ulansey further stated that the most distressing revelation in this ongoing fiasco is found in the February 2011 letter, when the State says, “ we were under the impression that this issue had been resolved when we did not receive a response to our 2004 letter.”

Is it proper for County officials to ignore, and fail to respond to, issues affecting the property rights of hundreds of County citizens?

It is our hope that the release of this information will help answer the following questions: 1) Why is Humboldt County the only county in the State taking this position on “shaded parcels” and 2) Why is the Humboldt County Counsel’s Office always uniquely interpreting so many sections of the law in a manner much different than the rest of the State, and almost always detrimental to the interests of Humboldt County property owners?

HumCPR will make the results of this information request available to the public when received.

HumCPR is dedicated to preserving the rural lifestyle that has been the historic tradition of Humboldt County. We will aggressively pursue the right to allow all members of our community a broad choice of alternatives for living, working and recreating. HumCPR will actively monitor and oppose actions that erode property rights or diminish the economic viability of our community.

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