Spanish Ranch: What does the future hold for this historic area?

By Debra Moore

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The future of Spanish Ranch in Meadow Valley has local residents concerned as rumors swirl about an impending sale.

The roughly 435-acre property is currently owned by Sierra Pacific Industries and was formerly owned by another timber company, Soper-Wheeler. Now SPI intends to sale the property and locals are wondering who the next owner will be and what will become of the property.

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Plumas County District 1 Supervisor Greg Hagwood, who represents the area, has met with the timber company and a prospective buyer, as well as the directors of the planning and building departments.

“SPI is endeavoring to sell it to a purchaser whose daughter resides in Meadow Valley,” Hagwood said. “I’ve met the prospective buyer (who is from Texas) and they are wonderful people who want to clean up the property and restore it.”

The property contains approximately 12 cabins in various states of disrepair, with a handful of them currently occupied. SPI is not charging rent to the cabin inhabitants.

While the prospective buyer wants to move forward with the purchase, the sale has been held up by local agencies. “The planning department is making it incredibly difficult for the buyer,” Hagwood said. There are lot line adjustments to be made and the removal of uninhabitable structures, but there’s also a 2007 decision made by the then Board of Supervisors complicating the process.

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Hagwood said he told Planning Director Tracey Ferguson and Building Director Chuck White that he is very supportive of the family purchasing and restoring the property. He said that the restoration would positively impact the county’s tax roll as well as increase the property values of surrounding residences.

The process

For their part, the heads of the planning and building departments are adhering to a 2007 decision made by the Plumas County Board of Supervisors that requires a series of steps in dealing with buildings located on the Spanish Ranch property.

The 2007 decision requires the county to evaluate the historical significance of the remaining structures on the ranch and select two of them (in addition to the main house) and make them available for restoration. Buildings not selected as representative of the historical character of the area may be demolished “in the event they become vacant and are determined by the owner uneconomical to bring up to present-day code standards.”

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During a request for information from Plumas News, Planning Director Ferguson outlined the steps she said would be necessary to adhere to that decision. This is the process that must be followed before any demolition permits can be issued by the Building Department after review by the Planning Department:

The county must evaluate the historic significance of the remaining structures and select the two most representative samples for preservation in addition to the main house.

The “main house” is the Moss & Hammond Warehouse, now a vacant residence located at 556 Spanish Ranch Road. This structure was determined by former Plumas County Museum Director Scott Lawson to be “pre-sawmill era.”

The process by which the county will select the two most representative samples for preservation will occur through a public hearing process held before the planning director, anticipated to occur in June. Various data will be used to reach a decision.

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After the public hearing and the planning director’s decision regarding the two selections, applications could be submitted for demolition of the remaining structures if vacant and if determined by the owner to uneconomical to bring up to present-day code.

A bit of history

An undated Lithograph from California Genealogy and History Archives depicts Spanish Ranch in its heyday.

Two Spaniards set up a camp in Meadow Valley in July of 1850. Their camp was a quarter mile north of Old Oroville-Quincy Road and six miles west of Quincy. The area became known as Spanish Ranch with Spanish Creek running through and Spanish Peak rising above at an elevation of more than 7,000 feet. Spanish Ranch became a distribution center for surrounding camps. The two original male residents raised and slaughtered cattle.

By 1852, the town’s population expanded and featured a hotel, a blacksmith shop, and general store. A Wells Fargo office opened there in 1868. Gold was plentiful in Spanish Ranch, and by 1881, miners found more than $114,000 in gold coin and bouillon.

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