County axe falls on woodcarvers

May 28, 2003 12:00 am

By Jennifer Henion

Triplicate staff writer

The woodcarving business at the Crescent City Harbor has been asked to leave.

Time ran out yesterday for owners Debra and Feather Bauman after the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors had given them one year and three chances to clean up the property and come into compliance with the use permit for their business.

"I'm dismayed that after all this time, the conditions haven't been met. That is all that had to be done for them to keep this business," said County Supervisor Sarah Sampels just before the board pulled the Baumans' permit to run their business.

Little Joe's Custom Carvings, as the business is called, stocks and sells large wood stumps and large wood sculptures carved there with a chainsaw.

After complaints to the county that the business was blocking a harbor entrance and creating a shabby appearance for other businesses behind it, the county discovered the Baumans were not complying with their use permit.

The Del Norte County Planning Commission then laid out 16 changes the Baumans would have to make.

Most of those conditions sought to limit the hours of operation, to keep vehicles and wood out of the roadway previously blocked and to diminish the sprawl of the wood pieces to a much smaller area.

Eventually, the Planning Commission revoked the Baumans' permit. The woodcarvers then appealed the revocation to the Board of Supervisors, which gave the Baumans more time to comply.

After several months, only half of the conditions are being complied with, according to staff of the county's Community Development Department.

And while Feather Bauman contends the raw stumps are the "art of the creator," many others, including elected officials of the Harbor District see the stumps and debris as blight.

"I am now so very tired of this nonsense. And out of 100 surveys about the harbor given to my customers to fill out, the number-one complaint was the sight of the woodcarving business," said Sharon Dyer, owner of the Harbor View Grotto Restaurant.

Bauman's attorney, Leroy Davies, spoke at the supervisors' meeting and argued that the wood stumps are commodities of the business like cans on a grocery shelf, and the Baumans have the right to store the stumps at their business.

Bauman added that his wood brings in tourists.

"I get 200 people a day that walk through the stumps. People pay more for this artwork than you make," he said to the Board.

Bauman's main reason for not complying with the conditions set to clean up his business was that he cannot afford to.

According to Del Norte County Counsel Bob Black, the business owners still have the option of appealing to the superior court.

Otherwise, the Baumans will be asked to discontinue their current business.

"It's got to move fairly quickly," said Ernie Perry, head of the Del Norte County Community Development Department.