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Genesee Friends taking a stand against private heliports

Following is a timeline of events regarding the Genesee Ranch heliport:

Plumas County General Plan: “Airports shall not be permitted in Genesee Valley Special Management Area.”

Federal Aviation Administration: “airport is an area … used … for … landing and takeoff of aircraft….”

January 2016 Oak Court Palmaz, Ltd applies to FAA for heliport in Genesee.

March 2016: Palmaz applies to County Planning Department for Barn and Storage building.

March 2016: Planning grants permit for Barn and Storage building.

May 2016: FAA grants permission for heliport.

August 8, 2016: Planning approves Barn and Storage building.

August 15, 2016: Oak Court Palmaz Ltd/Palmaz Ranch /Genesee Valley Ranch LLC applies to County for “functionally equivalent use to a defined use.”

August 26, 2016: Genesee Friends files complaint with County for violation of General Plan.

May 2017: County decides helicopter is “functional equivalent” of truck or tractor and airports are allowable on all County agriculture-zoned lands.

July 2017: Genesee Friends appeals to Board of Supervisors.

August 1, 2017: Board calendar has date-setting for Appeal on agenda, but in session decides to not hear Appeal.

Lawsuit awaiting court decision

Plumas County Planning Director Randy Wilson’s decision last year that “the Genesee Ranch heliport and a heliport on other lands zoned Agricultural Preserve is a functionally equivalent use …. similar to a use of a tractor or a truck….” changes agriculture in Plumas County as we know it.

If the courts and general public allow Wilson’s decision to stand, any entity or corporation (such as the Genesee Valley Ranch Limited Liability Corporation) can buy agricultural land, construct an airport — without public or environmental review — and produce who knows what for sale to the rest of us. Or, since real estate values skyrocket for properties with airports, even while decreasing values on adjacent properties, permitting airports on agriculture-zoned lands can lead to high-end subdivisions. Is this what we want for Plumas County Ag. lands?

Let’s say a hobby farmer does use his helicopter as a “tool,” to view his land from 10,000 feet above. Once the farmer with those kinds of (monetary) resources buys what’s left of Plumas County Ag. Land who else will be able to farm here? Not many, we think, of the people working at farming and ranching now. We won’t be able to purchase, as an agricultural tool, a private helicopter and spend the million-plus dollars for a heli-barn. Marijuana corporations could, however, and no doubt will, if Wilson’s decision isn’t overturned by a judge and informed public.

When Hollywood icon Bruce Willis began construction of a private airstrip on his “ranch” in central Idaho, 5th District Judge Robert Elgee stopped it with his May 2017 ruling that Camas County commissioners violated state law by allowing…a private airport in agriculture-zoned county lands, showing “‘complete disregard’ for property rights and the well-being of the neighborhood.”

In California, Napa County planning commissioners blocked a private heliport on the Genesee Valley Ranch LLC’s vineyard there, and voters in the last election approved Measure D to prohibit private airports/heliports. In Napa, those who would travel by air are required to use county facilities where zoning recognizes the effects of noise and other impacts from air traffic. The same is appropriate here with county airports in Chester, Beckwourth and Quincy.

But despite our General Plan that specifically prohibits private airports in Genesee, our Planning Director and Board of Supervisors (with one dissenting vote) choose to ignore decades of county planning and their own constituents in favor of corporate thinking and money. Unbeknownst to most Plumas County residents, they are changing zoning in a way that diminishes local capacity to farm and ranch on agriculture-zoned lands, county wide,

In a recent letter to the Editor in support of his preferred candidate’s campaign, Genesee Valley Ranch LLC, shareholder Christian Palmaz — who claims the Executive Bell helicopter he flies from their Napa Vineyard to Genesee is necessary for managing his entirely fenced-in wagyu cattle — refers to Plumas County as a “special place; a bucolic community centered around high-country values.” His letter goes on to say that’s why his family bought here. But then his language shifts: “If the county is a corporation then we are its shareholders.” If.

That’s just it. We aren’t a corporation. We’re people, in places who live on the land, who developed a County General Plan to guide the kind of development and activities we want in our communities, who elected members of the Board of Supervisors to represent and protect us over special interests.

Genesee Friends is challenging Plumas County’s decision that a helicopter is a “tool” for agriculture, and a heliport is a barn for storing it. We believe that the sum total of the County: the supervisors we elect to represent us, the employees we pay to do their jobs, the places we live, and those with whom we share our lives is much more than a corporation. Idaho Judge Elgee’s ruling seems to agree, as do the voters and Planning Commissioners in Napa County and other places working to protect agricultural lands and communities. The General Plan in its preface recognizes the need for local farming, and for decreasing our dependence on oil. Helicopter ranching responds to neither goal. It is corporate. It displaces the rest of us.

We need to remind the County to support and protect local farming and ranching done by local families and people —on horseback, on foot, in trucks, in four-wheelers. Because if only those who can buy $5 million helicopters with operational costs (in 2010) of  $664 per hour and build private airports heliports for personal door to door convenience, the work of the rest of us, the food we eat, the neighbors we have, our communities and homes, will be only regulated parts on another’s corporate spreadsheet. That’s why Genesee Friends is standing with farmers and ranchers with their feet on the ground, in this place and, like communities in Idaho, Napa and elsewhere, saying No to private heliports/airports on lands zoned for agriculture.

14 thoughts on “Genesee Friends taking a stand against private heliports

  • Agreed, private helicopters are pretentious and potentially aggravating. I wouldn;t care for someone locally routinely using this method of travel. If Genesee Friends, represented by M. Jackson, an extreme environmentalist attorney, wants to challenge the General Plan, then so be it. Jackson is doing work pro-bono, and if he can win the case against the county, he will bill the county(and its residents) for his time. That’s a good reason for him to persist. Jackson, and the extreme environmentalist movement have no concern for small farmers. The enviro ruse always allows big agri to prevail, with people like Jackson everywhere espousing more restrictions and fees, which kill small farmers and favor big ag . So, his argument is moot.

  • Before trying to ban anything isn’t there some kind of burden of proof necessary to show that banning it would be a reasonable or even necessary thing to do? We are right near Nervino airport and have helicopters and airplanes going by all the time and it’s just not a problem. They are hardly what any of us or our neigbors would call a nuisance.

    Can someone please state exactly what problem is being caused by helicopters? I read a lot of emotional venting and fear but I don’t read any hard facts.

  • If you want to ban aircraft then you should also ban the 16″ ag wells, spray pivots, and alfalfa harvesting operations as they have millions of times more impact than any possible number of helicoters Plumas County might muster to fly over a field. And you might as well also ban tractors, bailers, semi-trucks, horse trailers, quads, and 4×4’s and all other powered ag equipment for they all have greater impact than any possible number of helicopters put together that Plumas County could hope to ever muster.

  • Name one case where putting a heliport or airport on a property caused “real estate values skyrocket” (sic) or “decreasing values on adjacent properties” or “lead to high-end subdivisions.”

    Plumas County doesn’t have ANY high-end subdivisions and never will.

  • If you think a large corporation is going to be able to successfully grow marijuana (or anything else) in Plumas County you’ve seriously got to cut back on your cannabis consumption. With less than two months of frost free days in the region, nobody is going to succeed doing that.

    And nobody in their right mind, hobby flying farmers or not, is going to “buys what’s left of Plumas County Ag. Land” (your words) because you can hardly grow anything around here. Just have a look around, there is plenty of land available, it’s just that nobody wants to buy it!

    If you’re really worried about loss of ag land, you should talk to the land trusts that are buying it up often with public funds and where they pay no tax.

  • Helicopters don’t need airports or helipads, any $5MM helicopter costs WAY more than $664/hr to operate, and nobody is going to fly one up at 10,000 feet around here. Before you go making these claims you should learn about the subject.

    I would welcome such people as my neighbors. Let them fly all they want!

  • We have military and civilian helicopters and all kinds of airplanes fly over us all the time. I think they are fun to watch and they remind me of the days when we looked skyward and watched the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions. America was a land of progress and hope then.

    How did we become such fearful, hate-mongering, jealous and petty a culture so as to focus our energies on pushing down our neighbors instead of bettering ourselves?

    Exactly how has Palmaz, Genesee Valley Ranch or its helicopter harmed you? This is petty envy. Live and let live. Make friends instead of harass neighbors. Maybe you might even get a ride in their helicopter.

  • I agree that we need to support local farming, jobs, economy. Marijuana farming is one of the few things on the horizon that can do that. The limited-grow options that have been successful in many other places in California have shown that well designed custom ordinances are a great benefit to small economically weak counties like ours. Limited grow mitigates negative impacts, leaving one big positive. Also, limited grow limits the total income of the Marijuana farm, and I can guarantee that they will not be affording helicopters.

    • Reality check.

      No such thing as limited grow. Once the flood gates are opened it floods. Plain and simple.

      Look around.

  • Ginger, thanks for your comment. From the impact report prepared by the Planning Dept. on the Mauco limited grow initiative Pg.19-“Positive fiscal impacts may result from the implementation of the initiative. Bringing illegal operations into compliance, with appropriate inspection and enforcement, may reduce costs to Sheriff. There will be less environmental degradation. ” I prefer listening to the experts to just “looking around”. I don’t support the Mauco for a few reasons, but it is very close to what I would like to see, in my humble opinion. It is great that the Sheriff now has the authority for fast track abatement, but he will need revenues.

  • Revenues might be awfully meager. Statewide legal tax paying marijuana cultivators are running around 10% and the non-paying illegal growers are in the neighborhood of 90% Mauco only provides a 2% tax on a legal growers profits. So I’m sure not seeing rainbows for Plumas County.

    The juice won’t be worth the squeeze and the adverse changes to our lives commercial cultivation promises to bring insures a no vote from me in November.

  • If it weren’t for double standards the county wouldn’t have any standards at all, sue them.

  • Tax exempt trusts? You mean TAYLOR LAKE which is owned by alibaba CEO and Meg Whitman?!
    And there is limited grow Ginger, only 50 cultivation sites in all of Plumas, explain how that isn’t limiting. Oh and no LARGE grows, per state definition of license types. Please, expand on your rhetoric.
    And how are you even able to equate real #s to the tax with your comments? You say this without any citations to data, in which, I can definitely give you real numbers to think about, way more than this County has ever seen from an Ag product. Lemme know when you’re ready for facts and not just hyperbole.

  • “I read a lot of emotional venting and fear”

    Burden of proof, you nailed it!

    And why does everything have to turn to pot? Aren’t there enough editorials specifically about pot to comment on? You guys stay on your own side of the creek, not every editorial is about you/pot

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