2017-08-10 / Front Page

Emergency ordinance addresses fire recovery


In response to the Detwiler Fire, the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors passed an emergency ordinance on Tuesday to help people arrange temporary housing.

One of the main focuses of the emergency ordinance is allowing recreational vehicles to be easily permitted to be either on property where a house was destroyed or damaged or on another parcel of a friend or family member.

“There is an urgent need for replacement housing,” said Brian Foucht, deputy director of the Mariposa County Planning Department.

The ordinance, passed 4-0, is for 45 days and can be extended for 10 months and 15 days.

The six main points of the ordinance area:

• Procedures to facilitate the establishment of temporary housing for residents who have lost their homes due to a disaster;

• Provisions for reoccupation of properties damaged due to a disaster;

• Requirements for clean-up of toxic materials and debris resulting from a disaster;

• Procedures to clarify process for rebuilding structures damaged or destroyed as a result of a disaster;

• Provisions for temporary facilities for post-disaster recovery operations;

• Protection of the public health and safety of residents within a declared disaster area.

According to County officials, 81,623 acres of land, which impacted 796 parcels, were damaged or destroyed by the Detwiler Fire.

As of this week, 152 structures within the fire area have been identified as having been damaged or destroyed with 63 residences, 67 outbuildings and one commercial structure destroyed and 13 residences and eight outbuildings damaged displacing residents and disrupting their livelihoods.

The ordinance would allow for two recreational vehicles per parcel with the proper permitting. Those permits can be obtained through the Mariposa County Building Department and can be done quickly.

Mike Kinslow, director of the building department, said the idea of allowing recreational vehicles is a “tool for us to do this immediately. It’s the cheapest and easiest way to do it.”

Supervisor Kevin Cann asked about mobile homes, saying some people might prefer to use those while they are rebuilding.

Kinslow said mobile homes can be used, it is just a longer process and they have to meet the various requirements, like being anchored, having utility hookups and more.

“We’re okay with mobile homes,” said Kinslow.

County officials said they limited the number of recreational vehicles to two so the process can be done quickly.

“Greater numbers of congregate temporary housing units necessitate greater investment in supporting improvements and infrastructure,” the ordinance states.

Foucht said the ordinance was partially formed by using a model from Calaveras County following the Butte Fire.

The ordinance also outlines various criteria for the rebuilding process, including permitting and other aspects.

Persons can contact the planning department at 966-5151 or the building department at 966- 3934 for further details.

Parkway proposal

The supervisors, sitting at the Local Transportation Commission, also heard a presentation about the Mariposa Creek Parkway.

Foucht introduced the presentation, saying it focuses on Phase III of the project.

Phase one began in the early 1990s as a walkway along Mariposa Creek. By 1999, the 5th to 8th streets portions of the walkway were completed and the Art Park was done in 2004-05.

Now, officials are looking at doing more of the walkway. That component would be from the low water crossing on 8th Street to the area of Joe Howard Street and Coakley Circle.

Kay Hutmacher of Sierra Designs gave the board details about the proposals.

She said a working group looked at various ideas and came up with three concepts. Components of all three concepts were included in the final design, she said.

There would be two paved trails as well as various dirt trails. They also would like to include two bridges as well as several overlooks along the trails. The paved trails would be handicapped accessible.

She said they would also like to include a small parking area, tables, restrooms and interpretive signs.

Cann praised the effort, saying after the first two phases, the concepts were stalled.

“This thing has been dormant for far too long,” said Cann.

He said the board of supervisors “needs to help” with the process, even if it is aiding in getting permits and other processes.

Bridget Fithian, executive director of the Sierra Foothill Conservancy, said her group supports the effort totally and is willing to try to find available funding.

Elizabeth Gabriel, president of the Mariposa Master Gardeners, said she thinks the parkway can be beneficial in many ways.

“I think this would be an enormous benefit to the community as a whole,” said Gabriel.

“We have a diamond in the rough,” said local business owner Kris Casto.

Cann called walkways an “essential part” of gateway communities and those that are destinations for travelers.

“I totally support this project,” said Supervisor Miles Menetrey.

The biggest obstacle, as in most cases, is funding.

Daniel Veyna of Sierra Designs said the next step is to “set up the process” of finding funding sources.

Tara Schiff, economic development specialist for Mariposa County, said she has been working with many groups and County departments to find funding sources.

She also pointed out there could be a wide variety of sources because of the broad nature of the projects. That includes economic development, health, education, environment, tourism and more, she said.

Other business

In other business:

• Cann said he has been meeting with the local parking committee and they are “getting closer” to having a public meeting about the issues.

• Cann also said he will be attending the Rural Counties Representative of California (RCRC) meeting this week and is hoping to get funds to help the victims of the Detwiler Fire. Because not enough homes were destroyed to obtain a Presidential declaration, Cann is hopeful RCRC members will be open to giving funds. He said after other disasters in surrounding counties, the group gave $2,500 for each house destroyed.

• Supervisor Rosemarie Smallcombe said she has met with several constituents in Jerseydale and Midpines concerning the Detwiler Fire. She said they would like to have a meeting with local officials to “discuss what happened during the fire” as well as how improvements can be made to protect those areas in the future.

• Board chairman Marshall Long said he was going to meet with officials from the Mariposa County Fire Safe Council as well as CAL FIRE to discuss how to make the County more fire safe. He also said he was going to go with CAL FIRE officials to the Hunters Valley area where the fire started.

CAL FIRE officials have said the fire was started by gunfire on public land. “I hope to address some of the stories that aren’t quite true,” said Long.

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