Travis Schneider's family home has sat partially built under a stop work order since early this year.
After an emotional apology from the developer, the Humboldt County Planning Commission voted unanimously Thursday to approve the permits and permit modifications necessary for Travis Schneider to tear down his partially constructed family home overlooking the Fay Slough Wildlife Area.
After amassing a host of permit violations during construction of the more than 20,000-square-foot home
on Walker Point Road — including one that jeopardized Wiyot cultural resources and another that crucially put the project in the California Coastal Commission’s jurisdiction — the project has been under a county stop work order since December of 2021 and a notice of violation issued in April, carrying fines of $40,000 a day for up to 90 days.
Seeing no other path forward, Schneider has agreed
to tear down the foundation and framing already constructed on the house, remove the up to 15,000 cubic yards of fill dirt brought into the property and restore it to its natural grade. Thursday, after a fairly brief discussion, the planning commission approved the permit modifications and special permits necessary to do that, along with conditions that require the work be done by the end of next July.
Schneider has also agreed to seek a lot-line adjustment, which will require coastal commission approval, that will leave the archeological site — a well-preserved, pre-contact Wiyot village first documented in 1918 — entirely on one of the property’s two parcels, which will then be conveyed to a third party to be held for the three local area Wiyot tribes. The remaining parcel would carry no entitlements, meaning if someone wanted to build a home on it they would need to start the permitting process over from the beginning.
The area outlined in green is planned to be turned into a new parcel to be conveyed to a third-party for preservation by the Wiyot area tribes under the agreement.
The lone person to address the commission during public comment, Schneider first addressed two specific issues with the agenda item before the commission. First, he requested a bit more time to do the required work, expressing concern it would be difficult to complete by the initially proposed deadline of October. Then, he said he believes the county’s figure of 15,000 cubic yards of fill dirt is inaccurate, wanting to correct the record and saying he’d only brought in 3,000 to 5,000, which he said he’ll remove. Then Schneider did something he hadn’t yet done publicly: apologize.
“I’m sorry and I want to apologize to all those who have been affected by this project,” he said before a lengthy pause and continuing, his voice cracking with emotion, to recount how he’s always wanted to improve Humboldt County and thought his family’s “dream home” would “contribute positively to the surrounding landscape.”
“I believe the conditions agreed upon herein allow this community to heal and move forward,” he said. “While I had hoped for a different outcome, I’m confident this … will bring peace and healing to those that we’ve hurt.”
Check back for a full report on the commission meeting and the path forward.