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De Vaul gets grounded

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After nearly two years of prosecution, two appeals, and national news coverage of code violations at the Sunny Acres ranch and sober living facility, owner Dan De Vaul has been sentenced to stay at the Sunny Acres ranch and sober living facility.

Rather than serve the remainder of a 90-day jail sentence after he was convicted of two counts of criminal code violations, De Vaul applied for and was awarded monitored home detention.

“It’s working out fine,” De Vaul said of being confined to the ranch by an ankle bracelet until Sept. 27.

De Vaul was convicted in late 2009 of code violations and creating a hazardous living environment at Sunny Acres, which provides housing and drug and alcohol services for more than a dozen residents. Under the terms of his home detention, he must remain on the ranch—except for approved trips off the property. De Vaul can also be subjected to searches by a Sheriff’s Department correctional deputy at any time.

The home-detention program has been gaining popularity among local law enforcement due to overcrowding at the county jail. Officials expect that overcrowding will get worse as the state implements Assembly Bill 109, which would direct people to jails who would previously have been sent to state prisons. Specifics on implementing the bill have yet to be hammered out by state officials.

Meanwhile, San Luis Obispo County officials are carrying out a court-ordered cleanup of Sunny Acres, which includes testing the water and removing residents from shacks that have been deemed uninhabitable.

The county conducted water tests on July 20 and found no signs of bacteria or E. coli, but the water did test positive for some pathogens, De Vaul said.

Though De Vaul said there are ways to address the sample results, the fate of Sunny Acres residents is still unknown. County officials are scheduled to make an Aug. 15 inspection and ensure the shacks where residents sleep and the dairy barn where they eat have been vacated. Of course, that would mean many of the residents will have no place to live or eat.

It’s unclear what will happen to those residents or how the county will continue to enforce evictions, if it comes to that.

The Sunny Acres case is scheduled for a court follow-up on Aug. 25.

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