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Humboldt County imposes illegal condition on building permit applicants
Powell v. County of Humboldt
Contact: Meriem L. Hubbard or Jennifer Fry
Status: The court entered an adverse judgment on Oct. 2, 2012. Plaintiffs appealed to the First Appellate District Court of Appeals on Nov. 29, 2012. Briefing on appeal to be completed by May 13, 2013.
Scott and Lynn Powell own a mobile home in McKinleyville, California, near the Arcata-Eureka Airport in Humboldt County. The previous owners of the property – without obtaining a building permit – added an attached covered porch and carport to the mobile home. Now, the County is threatening to fine the Powells if they do not seek an after-the-fact building permit and make minor improvements to ensure that the attached structures comply with County codes and regulations. The Powells complied with the County’s request, but the County refuses to approve their permit application until they dedicate an overflight easement to the County.
An overflight easement grants the right to make flights, and the noise inherent thereto, and denies the ability of property owners to force the County to purchase their property when the noise, lights, vibrations, or emissions from flights become intolerable. Humboldt County requires that all permit applicants dedicate an overflight easement “for the use and benefit of the public.” However both California and federal law require that the County utilize its power of eminent domain to purchase overflight easements it thinks are necessary for the airport. The County cannot demand an easement where a building project, such as the Powells’, will have no impact on airport operations. And the County cannot hold their permit application hostage in order to force them to donate an easement.