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CGF In the News
Moon Bay Review
By April Vargas
In the June 4 edition of the Review, Deborah Ettinger raised several criticisms of the proposed coastal expansion of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD). While Ms. Ettinger's comments may express the deeply held beliefs of a small but vocal group of district opponents, they are long on emotion and short on fact.
During a five-hour MROSD special meeting on June 5, the district board voted unanimously to move the annexation process forward and submit an application for approval to the Local Agency Formation Commission of San Mateo County. In the course of that meeting, many of Ms. Ettinger's misgivings were directly addressed.
1. In the district's fiscal analysis, property tax losses to special districts are computed according to property values, while costs for potential land purchases are calculated according to fair market value. As any homeowner is no doubt aware, the assessed value of one's home is always considerably less than what it might bring on the open market. District opponents repeatedly quote fair market rather than assessed values when computing estimated tax losses, thereby inflating these numbers.
2. The San Mateo County Grand Jury report states that "The district's proposed Coastal Annexation Area has the potential to preserve the rural environment and protect agricultural lands that are threatened by development preserves." Rather than concluding that the district has failed to protect agriculture as Ms. Ettinger alleges, the report instead references the fact that up to this point there has been a "lack of agricultural experience and expertise in the district ..." To gain more experience and effectively implement its commitment to the preservation of agriculture, the district will convene an advisory group of local farmers and agricultural experts to assist in the creation of specific policies before any agricultural land is purchased or accepted following the completion of the annexation.
3. Current public access policies on lands owned by the Peninsula Open Space Trust, a private land trust, will not dictate the access policies that MROSD, a public agency, will adopt following the annexation. Only after each property is assessed will there be a determination of the appropriate type and level of access. These decisions will be made as part of a public process.
4. Regarding eminent domain, the district has relinquished its use of this power in the proposed annexation area using a legally binding method that is acceptable to the San Mateo County Counsel and legal counsel for the San Mateo County Farm Bureau.
5. Far from being a "gradual and silent encroachment of those in power," the coastal annexation project has been an open public process since its adoption was first requested by locally elected officials in 1997. Following the victory of Measure F, an advisory vote in 1998, the district has conducted dozens of open meetings on the Coastside over the ensuing five years. More public input has been sought through the preparation of the Environmental Impact Report, which was not required for an agency to acquire and manage land to preserve its open space and agricultural resources. In the broadest terms, fear and uncertainty are understandable reactions to change. But the strength of these emotions must not overpower the potential public benefits of preserving the rural character and agricultural heritage of the Coastside.
April Vargas is a Legislative Advocate for the Committee for Green Foothills and lives in Montara.
Page last updated September 13, 2010 .