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State eyes Point St. George acreage

By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

The possible sale of another chunk of private land to a state agency is raising the eyebrows of some Del Norte County supervisors.

Point St. George area land owned by the Stephen Westbrook family is of interest to the California Coastal Conservancy, an agency set up by the state Legislature to keep coastal lands accessible.

Westbrooks more than 400 acres wont take an enormous bite out of the countys tax revenues and the deal is far from done, but the possibility is making supervisors Clyde Eller, David Finigan and Chuck Blackburn feel the walls of state land control are closing in on the countys budget.

The agencies involved and the government representatives in Sacramento must realize Del Norte County must look to its tax base or state funds, or face bankruptcy, Eller said.

His concern about the possible Point St. George land sale was sparked by the recent negotiations to sell 25,000 acres of the Stimson Lumber Company land to Save-the-Redwoods League, he said.

We got on-board way too late on the Stimson sale, by the time we got on that, we were told the deal was practically done, Eller said.

But Westbrook said the sale is really a non-issue at this point. He and the conservancy have discussed the sale for about 10 years, and nothing has come of it yet, he said.

Recently, however, the conservancy contracted an appraiser to establish the lands value, according to Karen Gear, North Coast regional director for the agency.

Were interested in it because it is such a resource, Gear said, pointing out it is the site of an ancient Native American village in addition to its natural beauty and access to the coastline.

She said the appraisal is not finished and no firm offer has been made.

When and if there is an offer or sale, Westbrook said it will be private and not the business of the Board of Supervisors.

Eller said he does not want to intervene in a private sale, but is still concerned in general about losing the countys income.

If you give land to a state agency to essentially lock it up, in a sense, it prevents development. And a healthy community is a growing community, he said.

County counsel Bob Black said there are ordinances to prevent counties from being surprised by large revenue losses due to private land sales.

I learned there are some counties with revenue neutrality ordinances that say no transactions should result in the loss of revenue to the county. And that puts a policy out front that any such transaction would have to reckon with the county first, Black said.

No such ordinance is actively being considered as yet, however.

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