Amnesty for Croy residents, please

It takes more than a fire to destroy a community, as residents
of Bachelor Hill in Croy Canyon prove by their stories today.
Because a

community

is not the physical structures that give a place its shape, but
the friendships and shared life experiences that bond people
together.
The Croy Canyon fire victims have lost their homes, but their
love for a region and their personal resilience, buffered by the
help of their neighbors, have instilled in them the passion to
endure.
It takes more than a fire to destroy a community, as residents of Bachelor Hill in Croy Canyon prove by their stories today. Because a “community” is not the physical structures that give a place its shape, but the friendships and shared life experiences that bond people together.

The Croy Canyon fire victims have lost their homes, but their love for a region and their personal resilience, buffered by the help of their neighbors, have instilled in them the passion to endure.

They worry, though, that the community that has thrived for more than two decades has now been discovered. For years the hardscrabble lot has worked to piece together homesteads off the radar of suburbia. On remote acreage hidden amid chaparral and redwoods, they have powered up generators and solar panels and turned hunting and vacation cabins into permanent, year-round residences, often without getting the county OK.

Some simply opted for a reclusive lifestyle far from the city; some moved there out of economic necessity as Silicon Valley prices forced them into the hills. But even after a disaster has exposed the dangers of a remote lifestyle, they are adamant that they want to stay. Once you’ve lived in a secluded paradise, they say, it’s impossible to ponder a tract home again.

Their problem is that the fire that destroyed their worldly possessions also exposed them to the world, and worse, the Santa Clara County Planning Department, which was unaware that so many people made permanent homes in the steep canyons without obtaining the required building permits — another issue altogether.

Supervisor Don Gage has asked that the 34 residents whose homes were destroyed be given amnesty by the county. It would allow property owners to comply with county regulations – even those built without building, grading or sewer permits.

It’s not without precedent. Victims of the Lexington Fire in 1985 and the Loma Prieta Earthquate in 1989 received similar breaks from government.

Preserving a remote community by voting for amnesty, in this instance, would be the compassionate thing for the Board of Supervisors to do.

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