The Cook Property logging issue is an old problem that was defeated years ago but has returned under a new application to the Santa Cruz County Planning Commission. The zoning of the 107.5-acre property is now Special Use. The owner of the property, Randall Cook, of Cook Enterprises, Inc., has applied to rezone the property to Timber Production. If this is accomplished, a Timber Management Plan will then be submitted to Cal Fire. According to Joseph Culver, Consulting Forester, “The parcel is located approximately ½ mile east of highway 17 and ½ mile south of Summit Road. A portion of the western boundary of the project area is Schulties Road while Laurel Creek defines much of the southern boundary. Burns creek runs south through the bulk of the property and joins with Laurel at the Redwood Lodge Road stream crossing. Approximately 20 acres of the project area is located on the south-facing slope immediately north of Laurel Creek. Hillsides in the project area climb steeply from the creeks and can be viewed along Schulties Road.”
Supervisor John Leopold explained the history of this application by saying, “In 1997, the community was faced with this proposal and at that time the rules were different than they are now. And the rules have been changed not to the benefit of you and me…but to the benefit of the foresters.” Although the proposal was defeated years ago, Mr. Leopold emphasized that at this time, “The state law is not in our favor.” He said, “I want to manage the expectations. The law is different than it was in 1997 and it has taken away some of the county control. Even though it’s zoning, and that should be under local community control, the state has weighed in and has taken away a lot of that control. We fought for a long time over that.” He also said that he had just come from touring the property and that he had looked at the width of the roads that would be used for hauling the logs out by truck. He commented, “To bring them out into a residential community, Villa Del Monte, seems extraordinary to me.” Logging trucks will also use Schulties Road.
The Supervisor introduced Vikki Pachera of the Summit Watershed Protection League. The SWPL was founded in 1997 by Vikki Pachera, Neil Wiley, Corwin Lakin, Steve Stewart, Bill Lard and Allan Erbes. It is a nonprofit organization of local homeowners fighting commercial logging in the Summit area of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Pachera said, “We got fired up 15 years ago to fight this battle. So we put together a nonprofit. When I went door-to-door 15 years ago, I got laughed at. People thought this was the most hilarious thing, that we would try to fight the logging. And at that time the land was zoned for Timber Production and we got it re-zoned to Special Use. So believe me, we can win some of these battles, and we are going to fight like hell to try to do that again.” She described John Leopold as, “A tremendous asset.” This brought enthusiastic applause from the audience. Pachera answered many questions and said that detailed information and maps are available at http://www.sites.google.com/site/summitwatershedprotection/
Supervisor Leopold also introduced Jodi Frediani, Forestry Task Force Chair, Ventana Chapter of the Sierra Club, as an expert advisor to the SWPL and who, “Has been helpful in lots of other logging fights in this county and others.” Frediani explained the legal process that this application must go through, and responded to questions from the audience. Issues raised by residents included the very close proximity to residential areas and road damage caused by logging trucks on residential streets; safety, with a helicopter landing pad on the property and flights over homes; watershed impact, including erosion and runoff into creeks, the impact on the steelhead salmon in Soquel Creek, wildlife protection and water pollution; and fire control. One of the residents estimated that the operation would harvest about 2.4 million board feet of lumber from the property. The permit would also be “in perpetuity” which means that the loggers can return every 14 to 15 years to log the regrowth. Frediani said, “If it actually comes to a Timber Harvest Plan, I guarantee that everyone who has concerns will get an opportunity to have their say, but it will be hard work getting Cal Fire to address and deal with them to your satisfaction.”
The application for rezoning was on the Santa Cruz Planning Commission agenda for May 23rd but has been delayed until July 11th. Updated information will be posted on the SWPL website.