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Owners of homes without permits won’t pay double

Croy victims get reprieve


Owners of homes without permits won’t pay double

Pinnacle Staff Writer

Santa Cruz Mountain residents who lost illegally constructed homes in the 3,100-acre fire in
September will not pay doubled building fees if they replace their houses, Santa Clara County
supervisors said Tuesday.
The decision not to penalize the residents is an effort to have new dwellings meet current building
standards, said Rachael Gibson, land-use aide to Don Gage, the board chairman and South Valley
Usually, building and planning fees are doubled when owners of illegally constructed houses are
caught, Gibson said.
In addition to the amnesty for scofflaws, supervisors waived building and planning fees for owners of
legally constructed dwellings, Gibson said. Owners of illegal structures will pay regular fees, she said.
“Waiving fees for owners of illegally constructed houses would cost the county $500,000 to
$600,000,’’ Gibson said.
Anyone who decides to rebuild, she said, will have up to two years and perhaps more to
complete their work.
“I love it. Its absolutely the right thing to do,” said Steve Slusser, a 20-year resident of Croy Road,
after learning about the county’s decision.
Wanting to get on with his life Slusser has already started re-building his un-permitted home, which
sustained major fire damage.
“The fire is taking an economic toll on everyone up here. Adding an additional weight would not help
anyone,” Slusser said. “It is a very humane thing to do; it shows that the government can have a heart.”
Amnesty is not without precedent. Victims of the Lexington fire in 1985 and residents who lost
homes in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake got fee breaks from the government.
The Croy Road fire reduced 34 structures to rubble 15 trailers, 13 houses and six mobile homes,
Gibson said. Thirty-two of the dwellings were built without county permits, she said.
Overall, 99 dwellings were in the fire zone, Gibson said, adding that 28 of them were not found on
the county tax assessor’s rolls. Twenty-three others didn’t meet the threshold for taxation, she said.
Given the number of living quarters that had gone undetected, Gibson said, the county assessor plans
to send letters to mountain residents. Nothing is definite, but scofflaws could be liable for current taxes
and up to three years of back taxes, Gibson said.
Supervisors Tuesday discussed the need to increase enforcement of planning and building codes, but
said it would have to be countywide, not just in backcountry areas, Gibson said.
But given the county hiring freeze and the enormous cost of an enforcement program, it’s not likely to
happen soon, she said.
The decisions of the board Tuesday will be reaffirmed when administrators prepare formal
documentation, Gibson said.
Fire investigators determined that a malfunctioning solar-heating system in a mobile home along Croy
Road caused the fire, which erupted in mid-afternoon on Sept. 23.
The initial assessment of fighting the fire was $8.5 million. Structure damage was estimated at more
than $5 million.
A 15-member crew from the California Youth Authority and a commercial firm from Vacaville on
Thursday began to reseed areas in the Santa Cruz Mountains devastated during the fire.
The Vacaville firm will spray a swath six to eight feet wide along roads with a mixture of mulch, seed
and water, said Mike Di Marco, a spokesman for the Santa Clara County Water District. The CYA
hand crew will move along firebreaks, spraying a swath about two feet wide, Di Marco said.
Reseeding introduces seeds of native grass species to stabilize earth and prevent erosion, Di Marco
said. Water district directors have authorized up to $150,000 to be spent on earth stabilization in the
fire area, he said.

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