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Sutter board says no to state funds with strings attached

Acknowledging pleas — and even some warnings — about giving up local control, Sutter County supervisors Tuesday rejected a resolution to apply for a state grant to help update the county's zoning ordinance.

Though supervisors said a zoning code update is still necessary, they heard the message loud and clear from many attending the meeting: State money comes with strings attached.

"This is work that has to be done," said Supervisor Jim Whiteaker, though he concluded with, "If you tell me to do it in-house, I do it in-house."

The grants the board considered come out of Proposition 84, a state bond measure, and would have come under the rubric of helping the county develop sustainable communities.

But speakers, many of them clad in T-shirts for the fiscal conservative tea party movement, said phraseology like "sustainable communities" actually means losing private property rights and bowing to extreme environmentalism.

"Sustainability is socialism," said John Larimer, an attorney and tea party member.

Many said language contained in the grants was similar to Agenda 21, a United Nations resolution from the early 1990s many conservatives and Republicans have seized on in recent years as a mechanism to undermine national sovereignty and the U.S. Constitution.

"May I suggest we say no to any grand source that requires us to give up our liberty," said Scott Sorensen, a tea party activist and Yuba City resident. "If you remember one thing, it's that the goal of Agenda 21 is the reorientation of American society."

By using the grant money to hire a consultant to then update the county's zoning, speaker Larry Virga said, the county wouldn't be getting what it wants. "It's to provide a consultant to change our zoning ordinances to comply with the state's requirements," he said.

Other speakers said the supervisors, in pledging to uphold the U.S. Constitution when they were sworn in, would be violating it if they voted to accept such grants.

County planning manager Lisa Wilson, who introduced the item, told supervisors she didn't believe applying for the grant would mean bowing to someone else's wishes in county zoning.

And doing it internally, she told the board before the unanimous vote against the resolution, would likely mean hiring staff to handle the issue. Some audience members later suggested forming a citizen's committee to reduce, if not eliminate, any resulting costs.

Supervisor James Gallagher, though, said he couldn't support the resolution because the language looked to him like giving up some authority.

"The last thing we really have at the county level is local land-use authority," he said.

CONTACT Ben van der Meer at or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer

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