Rebuilding Big Sur
Supervisors approve fee waivers and other guidelines to expedite recovery.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
A day before Federal Emergency Management Agency officials came to town to survey buildings burned out in the Basin Complex Fire, Monterey County supervisors took initial steps to help rebuild structures and infrastructure that were destroyed or damaged.
On Tuesday, July 22, supervisors unanimously approved guidelines intended to speed the permit process for residents and business owners who want to rebuild homes, roads, wells, septic systems, pipes and the like.
Nearly 30 Big Sur families and individuals lost their homes in the blaze. Home-businesses, guest units, water systems, cars and trailers, and campsites, among other things, also were destroyed.
“This is an effort emphasized by my office to be as proactive as we can to help Big Sur residents return to their homes after the fires,” said Supervisor Dave Potter, whose district includes Big Sur.
The Basin Complex Recovery Guidelines include:
• Processing proposals to reconstruct or repair structures damaged or destroyed by the Basin Complex Fire ahead of all projects outside of the fire-affected areas.
• Waving permit and other fees needed to return a structure to its original condition. (The fee waiver won’t apply to property owners who want to relocate their building site or increase the structure size.)
• Creating a recovery team made up of one staff member from each land-use department– planning, building services, public works, environmental health and the water resources agency– that will meet with a property owner within two working days of receiving a phone call for such a meeting.
(For complete guidelines, read the Basin Fire Board Report.)
A handful of property owners and their attorneys spoke at the meeting, commending the county for taking swift action to help those who lost their homes in the fire. Some offered suggestions to the guidelines.
Mike Caplin, who lives in Palo Colorado Canyon, told county officials that residents should have more time to apply for permits to rebuild their homes. The county report says applications to reconstruct or repair structures must be submitted by July 22, 2010, to qualify under the guidelines, and permits must be issued before July 22, 2011. “Two years will likely not be enough time for some people to apply for permits,” Caplin said, adding that a building permit requires construction to begin within six months, once it is issued.
Many people were uninsured or underinsured for fire loss, Caplin added. “Some people who don’t have the money in the bank to rebuild a house are going to need to get financing for construction,” he said. Caplin’s proposal: that the application period be extended from two to seven years, pushing the deadline to July 22, 2015. Supervisors sounded amenable to Caplin’s and other speakers’ comments, and Potter asked county staff to meet with the Big Sur residents and attorneys to incorporate the suggestions and improve the guidelines.