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Elk, Mendocino County--
When Ted and Marjorie Berlincourt of Virgina retired and decided to build their dream house on the Mendocino coast, they probably pictured easier days ahead. Instead, it's been a battle against seemingly overwhelming opposition.
The reason? Their dream lot is located in what the Local Coast Plan has designated a "highly scenic" location. Maybe someone should have told them.
Local oppostion produced hundreds of signatures against the project over the summer. California State Parks voiced its objection. And the county Planning Department denied the permit for the project--"without prejudice," meaning that it could be redesigned with the possiblity of approval.
But so far the Berlincourts are not going the path of redesign. They are in fact threatening lawsuits against those who lead the opposition to their project in the town of Elk, claiming lies and distortion.
And they are appealing the decision of the Planning Department to the County Board of Supervisors. The date has been set for November 13.
The permit was for a 3,100-square-foot house with a second story and a 1,600-square-foot garage. According to the County Permit Administrator, "The proposed location for the development is in the most prominent location on the headland." It will be "highly visible from public view areas in Elk," according to the Administrator.
The Berlincourts have denied that this is so in the past.
According to a top administrator at the Planning Department who wished to go unnamed, the Planning Department has been overridden in the past only a couple of times.
County Supervisor Seiji Sugawara said that it is hard to say how it will go with the county supervisors until they review the particulars of the project, but he said that the supervisors generally agree with the Planning Department in its decisions. He said, however, "The planning staff tends to look at issues on a bureaucratic level; they are inclined to follow the letter of the law." The Board of Supervisors, he said, may look at the decision in a broader context.
Local Elk resident Mary Pjerrou said there were two main reasons for opposition to the original project: The size and height of the structure, and its placement on the "most prominent point of the headlands." Said Pjerrou, "This is the last undeveloped view of the ocean from the town of Elk."
She said she is not opposed to the project if modifications are made. "The county permit administrator offered a compromise position by which the project could be reduced in size and moved south and east so that it still has a good south view of the ocean but it doesn't take away the public view of the headlands."
So far the Berlincourts do not see it that way. They have claimed in the past that existing houses in Elk obstruct their view. But they are refusing to comment until after the Novemeber hearing.
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