Seeking to expedite the placement of temporary housing for Trinity County residents who lost their homes in the August Complex fires, the Trinity County Board of Supervisors has approved an urgency ordinance allowing for certain fee and building permit waivers to assist in emergency recovery efforts.

The wind-driven wildfire ripped through the Southern Trinity community of Three Forks early in September before turning north toward Zenia, Kettenpom and Ruth where it burned around the southern and eastern sides of Ruth Lake, spotted into Hettenshaw Valley and ultimately crossed Highway 36 and into Forest Glen. The fire officially destroyed 276 residences and 390 outbuildings, damaged another four residences and four outbuildings for a total of 674 structures damaged or destroyed.

Displaced residents looking to reoccupy their land run into Trinity County’s existing temporary occupancy ordinance that says in order to have a recreational vehicle on a property for up to 90 days in a year, you must obtain a Planning Director’s use permit. That permit requires verification of a working septic system, valid water supply, electrical service and a valid encroachment permit if abutting county roads or state highway. To have an RV for more than 90 days, you must also have an active building permit for the property in addition to a Director’s use permit.

In presenting the urgency ordinance to the Board of Supervisors for approval during the board’s Nov. 17 meeting, Deputy Director of Planning Lisa Lozier said it will allow for expedited review of a temporary housing permit on an RV and waive certain fees, zoning provisions and county policies “to make it easier for people to get back on their property. Currently, an RV residence can take up to 90 days to review and this would waive that requirement.”

She added it is similar to an urgency ordinance approved for residents who lost their homes in the Helena fire three years ago.

Use of the urgency ordinance is limited only to properties where a dwelling was destroyed by the August Complex and limits fee waivers to a specific time period of 18 months. Waivers are to allow for immediate temporary use to re-establish residency, and ‘immediate’ is defined as 18 months.

The ordinance allows permitting of extended RV use without an active building permit, providing more time to consider how to rebuild. It waives the public notification process to surrounding properties as long as the temporary housing was the same use as the prior dwelling unit.

It eliminates external review of the Assessor, Cal Fire and Caltrans if required, and if an existing driveway is used, the encroachment permit requirement will be waived. It waives septic and water reinspection fees and the general plan update fee. It allows for storage buildings for supplies, materials and tools for reconstruction as long as the application is submitted at the same time as the director’s use permit for the RV. It also allows for extended operation time for generators to assist in recovery efforts.

The urgency ordinance was approved by a unanimous vote of the board.

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