Calaveras County supervisors voted unanimously Monday to nominate Ebbetts Pass for national scenic byway status.
At the board´s meeting, 21 out of 25 people spoke in favor of the Ebbetts Pass Corridor Management Plan and nominating Ebbetts Pass, a state scenic highway since 1971, to the Federal Highway Administration´s prestigious scenic byway program.
The first vote on the plan and designation July 6 was a tie vote with Supervisors Tom Tryon and Victoria Erickson voting no. Supervisors Merita Callaway and Lucy Thein supported the plan. Supervisor Paul Stein was absent due to a family emergency.
Fear that environmentalists would use the plan to control projects along the corridor and a belief that property owners aren´t properly compensated for such a designation, were among Tryon´s concerns.
Stein´s vote hinged on a guarantee that would protect property rights. The plan was changed to include language offered by Stein that essentially said whatever is allowed now along the corridor, such as logging, should always be allowed.
Tryon asked that cattle grazing be included in Stein´s amendment and at the final vote he said, “I´ll reluctantly say yes.”
Erickson changed her vote on the issue twice.
Stein and Erickson voted yes on the plan when it came to the Council of Government (COG) Board of Directors, on which they serve. COG is the county´s regional transportation agency and developed the plan over a three-year period. Its seven-member board includes supervisors, Angels Camp representatives and citizens at-large.
Erickson said she voted yes at COG because staff members recommended it.
She said she voted no July 6 in the best interest of the county. At that meeting Erickson said she was contacted by Sierra Pacific Industries, which said it was nervous about the designation. She said, “I do believe once we apply, there are strings attached.”
SPI opposes the plan. Tom Nelson of SPI spoke at a Greater Arnold Business Association meeting last Thursday.
“The federal listing isn´t going to affect our operation,” Nelson said. “We simply don´t see an advantage. Any regulation that doesn´t have an upside, we will oppose.”
Erickson said her yes vote Monday was a result of receiving 57 e-mails and 37 voicemails on the topic while on vacation in Texas last week.
“Your benefits outweigh my concerns,” she said.
“I wanted to have a fair review of it,” Stein said about his COG vote. “I wanted to make sure the process had a chance to develop.”
Stein said he was disappointed by the rhetoric surrounding the issue, which included using names and foul language and inappropriate e-mails.
Erickson echoed Stein´s comments, saying she was cussed at and threatened through correspondence.
The sentiment from the 25 community members who spoke Monday was largely reminding supervisors that they represent the people.
Derek Bray, owner of Tamarack Lodge, brought a petition of sorts from people across the nation who stayed at the lodge and read local newspaper articles on the topic.
“You´ve been elected to represent the people. Your decision will be scrutinized nationally, statewide and locally,” Bray told supervisors.
“The property concerns of a few don´t trump the concerns of many,” Kevin Hansen of Mountain Ranch said.
“We hired a board that represents the majority,” Drew Morris of Arnold said.
“Mr. Nelson said SPI was against the plan because it would not benefit them,” Mary Ellen Stone of Calaveras Title in Arnold said. “It will benefit us. You´re voting to help us. We work hard. We love it here. We´re raising our families here. Give us a chance.”
“Give us a representative of the people, by the people and for the people,” Terry Beaudreau, director of the CalWorks and Human Services Agency said. Beaudrea spoke as a resident.
There were four people who spoke against the plan.
Bill Mason of Murphys, a Calaveras County planning commissioner who voted against the plan, said, “The government is giving us a bunch of money and there are no strings attached now. But we can´t predict what they´ll require.”
Al Segalla of Murphys urged supervisors to vote no on the plan. He told them, “vote on principle. Never be bulldozed by special interest groups and slanted newspaper reporting.”
Joe Cunningham of Hathaway Pines said he wanted to know if the designation would affect his private property rights, “Can I work on my car? Can I paint my house pink?”
After the plan passed Callaway assured him he could paint his house any color.
Calaveras Enterprise story by Vanessa Turner. For more Calaveras news, click: calaverasenterprise.com