To the editors:
I originally came out in support of the Firm Foundation Academy in their efforts to set up a literature-based educational program at the former Pliocene Ridge School in Pike. However, I have come to believe that their agenda is not what they say it is. Their track record, as revealed through internet research, suggests that they are merely flipping real estate. What's wrong with that, you ask? They have bought rural properties at a low price, done some physical improvements, and imposed changes on the local laws to allow for a wider range of businesses to operate on the parcel, and increase the value of the property. Then their so-called school goes belly-up and they sell for a profit. Allowing overnight dormitories means that the property could be bought by entities intending to put in a bad-boy camp. The Firm Foundation Academy also reneged on their promise to hire local people. They had me doing some landscape work for them, but halfway through the job they replaced me with some Mexicans from Grass Valley, without notice nor explanation. Other local residents had similar experiences.
We have a great and cohesive community here in Pike, and most of us live here for the peaceful quality of life and the autonomy this place allows. I ask my neighbors to support that quality of life, and not allow this business to function here in the way that they propose. Thank you.
Pike resident for 26 years.
Everyone in Sierra County needs to understand what has happened in the Southwest corner of the county. Our county only has 3,000 plus residents but our county has great diversity. What goes no in the Pike community affects the Eastern communities as well. Why? We all live under one local government.
Please include the attached letter for your readers written by a long time Pike resident. They need to know.
TO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF SIERRA CO.
RE: FFA Appeal to Issuance of Special Use Permit
It is unfortunate that you have already voted on changing the Zoning for this property from General Forest to Public Service.
This piece of property was acquired by the State of California for use as public school run by Sierra County School District. This was accomplished without much public input and no concern for the wishes of the citizens of the Pike community.
The property use as proposed by the purchaser is not as a public school but as a private school and as such is a business. This is the definition provided on the California State Department of Education â€œA private school is a private business or nonprofit entity that offers or conducts full-time instruction with a full complement of subjects at the elementary, middle, or high school level.â€ And quite frankly, under that definition FFA is not operating a school so I donâ€™t know what it is.
As you know a public school does not produce a profit in any way, but a private school has to make a profit to succeed. There are many private schools that go out of business because they are unable to make the needed profit. There are at last count 4,250 private schools in California, I have been unable to find a private school that has been given the zoning that you have given to the FFA facility. It seems that most private schools are allowed in either Commercial or Institutional zones and on rare occasions in R zones.
The purpose of this private school is to make a profit for FFA whether in the tuition charged or the software developed to be sold at the expense of the students that may attend this private school.
What have you started by designating a private business as a beneficiary of a zoning change to Public Service? When the â€œLureâ€ which is a private business petitions you to rezone their property as Public Service because they are going to open a school to teach fishing and fishing related activities such as teaching how to tie a fly, bait hooks and wade in the river safely. What are you going to do? You have started down a slippery slope as they say!!!
There is an actual difference between public services and private services. The zoning of public service really applies to public buildings and schools not businesses no matter how you frame that business whether it be a private school or a boarding school or for that matter any kind of private business. For example across the street, we have the Western Sierra Medical Clinic, it is zoned R-1 not Public Service and I would offer that they do far more in the way of providing a public service than a private boarding school for non-residents of Sierra County will ever provide for Sierra County.
So giving the proposed FFA boarding school a zoning designation of Public Service is illogical.
That being said you have so moved the property in Pike which will not provide any Public Services is to be designated Public Service.
It has been acknowledged that Public Service zoning does not allow for residential living facilities. And yet before you is a proposal that goes directly against this tenet and would allow residential living quarters for periods of 10 to 60 days per student attending FFAâ€™s school. For that reason alone you should grant the appellants a favorable decision and deny the Special Use Permit to FFA.
In this county temporary residents whether in motels, B and B, hotels, etc., are charged a TOT. Are you planning to exempt FFA from this tax if you grant their Special Use Permit? Then you will have all of the other motels, B and B, hotels, etc. requesting Special Use permits as they open boarding schools at each of the facilities. The slippery slope once again appears.
The fact that the purchaser of the old school site should have done their homework and determined whether the Pike community was interested in a school, much less a boarding school where students would be boarded from 10 to 60 days.
This does not impose upon you the obligation to twist the existing codes to solve a problem that they have brought upon themselves.
Additionally, as the duly elected representatives of the citizens of Sierra County the imposition of reasonable restrictions upon the Special Use permit that reflect the concerns of the citizens of the Pike community are entirely with in the power that you hold in your hands.
The citizens of the Pike community have by a sizable majority expressed to you that
1. They do not want a boarding school located on the site of the old Pliocene School.
2. That if you are to rezone the property from General Forest to Public Service and to grant a Special Use Permit that it have restrictions that prevent it from intruding upon our way of life any more than the Pliocene School did while it was in operation. Monday through Friday 8am to 5pm and no more.
Thank you for your time today.