Sierra County and High Sierra Rural Alliance Settle Legal Challenge

High Sierra Rural Alliance recently announced that they have reached a settlement with Sierra County, agreeing to zoning code updates.

The Sierra Fund is proud to have loaned money for this important legal effort from our Michael & Judi Funk Donor Advised Fund.  “We are grateful to the Funk Fund for its important role in providing seed support for cutting edge litigation to protect iconic Sierra landscapes,” notes Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin, CEO of The Sierra Fund.


From High Sierra Rural Alliance

19 November 2010 – HSRA is pleased to announce an agreement with Sierra County over the “high water line” issue has been reached. Working to resolve a complicated issue, the parties agreed the best use of resources would be to update the Zoning Code to be consistent with the General Plan.

The Sierra County General Plan was adopted in 1996 after two years of public meetings and hearings. The General Plan has been called the “constitution” for land use planning in local jurisdictions. Sierra County’s Plan was widely heralded and supported at release. That stated, implementation of the General Plan is through the Zoning Code, most of which was drafted nearly 40 years ago and is outdated.

“We are committed to advocating for sound planning, and working with our community to ensure that it grows in harmony with the natural beauty of Sierra County,” stated Stevee Duber, project manager of HSRA. “Applying the goals of the General Plan through the regulations of the Zoning Code makes sense for all citizens of the county and will ensure Sierra County grows in the ways the community envisioned.”

When Sierra County added a new definition of “high water line” to its Zoning Code, HSRA challenged it in court because the new definition made the stream setback ordinance inconsistent with key implementation measures of the General Plan.  Under the agreement, the County will enact ordinances to implement General Plan policies and create the zoning districts around stream to meet General Plan designations.  The County also agreed to develop a plan to bring the rest of the Zoning Code into conformity with the General Plan within two years.

Bringing the zoning code into compliance with the General Plan will simplify the process for development to occur within community core areas such as Sierraville and Downieville, while ensuring that sensitive stream resources outside the core areas — which offer benefits of flooding protection, water quality and wildlife habitat — will be protected as originally intended.

“As we deal with these sometimes contentious issues, it is important to consider the legacy we leave for our children. We live in a unique area. Sound development and preservation of the things that make Sierra County special are not mutually exclusive” said Duber.