Little towns, big, big government

I own (or, rather, the bank and I own) a nice lot here in Marin County.  I’ve got a pretty back yard with views of hills and water.  When the trees at the back of my property get too tall, I hire a reputable tree trimming company to cut them down.  That sounds perfectly reasonable, doesn’t it?

It turns out, though, that in Marin, even cutting a tree on ones own property can be fraught with hazards and pitfalls, depending upon which town, or which “not town,” you call home.  As you read the following, keep in mind that I’m not talking about a situation in which you’re demanding that a neighbor cut one of his trees that interferes with your view, or that a neighbor insists that one of your trees should go for the same reason.  I’m talking about a situation in which one of your own trees is bugging you:

In San Rafael, there is no regulation governing removal of trees on private property, while in Tiburon, Sausalito and Belvedere, homeowners may cut trees that block views.

But in the San Geronimo Valley and other unincorporated areas across Marin, regulators want homeowners to spare that ax — unless they’ve got official permission and lots of cash to pay for the privilege.

Although the average tree-cutting permit charged by Marin cities is about $98, county officials now bill unincorporated area residents $1,490 for a “minor” tree removal permit — and twice that for a “major” permit involving a heritage tree.

The high woodsman fee and a plan to reduce from five to two the number of trees that can be cut each year before fees are imposed has residents up in arms in the San Geronimo Valley, where proposals to outlaw tree-cutting near streams to protect salmon habitat have prompted controversy for three years.

Read the rest here.

Silly though it sounds, I’m not ready to get my knickers in a twist.  Trees are the Marin equivalent of zoning.  Marin, after all, offers four things that make it so that people are willing to pay a fortune to live here:  (1) proximity to San Francisco without the inconvenience of San Francisco; (2) a temperate climate; (3) gorgeous trees; and (4) gorgeous views.  These last two, of course, have a nasty habit of conflicting with each other, which is why you can make a lot of money here as a lawyer specializing in view disputes.  (And no, I’m not one of those view lawyers.)  In other words, in Marin, tree/view laws are as important as zoning regulations are in other towns that regulate businesses and red light districts.

My purpose in raising this issue here is twofold.  First, I find it amusingly Marin-ish, and pass it on for that reason alone.  Second, it’s a reminder why local government is a good thing.  This is precisely the type of issue that should be fought out at the local level.  Can you imagine what would happen — God forbid! — if one of Obama’s federal agencies got involved?