Friday, July 2, 2010

Trinidad Planning Commissioner Investigated in Tsurai Site Clearcut

Posted By on Fri, Jul 2, 2010 at 6:21 PM


Axel Lindgren III and his brother, Joe Lindgren, both descendants of the original inhabitants of Tsurai, examine illegal cuts adjacent to Trinidad's Wagner Street Trail.

On Saturday Tuesday, the Times-Standard wrote about the strange case of a landscaper who had clearcut a wide swath of vegetation, including a stand of mature trees, within the archaeological zone of the historic Tsurai Village site in mid-June. Someone, it seemed, had illegally hired the firm to wipe the bluffs of view-blocking trees, which sit on public and historically sensitive property.

The Journal has since learned that the city's primary suspect in the case is none other than Trinidad Planning Commissioner Sam Pennisi, a former Arcata City Councilmember. Pennisi and his wife Sharon live in a bluffside home on Wagner Street, directly above the site of the cut, and had previously related to city officials that their vistas of Trinidad Bay were impeded by the vegetation on the site.

The Sheriff's Office is currently investigating the matter.

Reached at the home Friday afternoon, Sharon Pennisi told the Journal that she could not speak immediately upon hearing a reporter identify himself. She hung up before the reporter could identify what he was calling about.

However, a June 19 e-mail from City Manager Steve Albright to City Attorney Paul Hagen lays out the city's case against the Pennisis in fairly deep detail. In the e-mail, sent two days after the City put a stop to two days of illegal landscaping work on the bluffs, Albright tells Hagen that a different tree-trimming firm, which had been hired by the family, came into City Hall to discuss cutting the same site. That firm was told that the property belonged to the city of Trinidad, and could be cut under no circumstances. A few days later, Albright says, Sam Pennisi came into City Hall to complain.

Tsurai Village, which includes ancient graves and other historic artifacts, has been the subject of a long, contentious planning study aimed at preservation. It currently belongs to the city of Trinidad, but is slated to transfer to the Yurok Tribe at some point in the future. The California Coastal Conservancy holds an easement on the property.

More on the story in next week's Journal.

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