SLO County officials removed another stash of vehicles from Dan DeVaul’s Sunny Acres Ranch, and DeVaul again complained about his treatment.
It was the latest round in the long fight between DeVaul and the county. On May 19, SLO County supervisors unanimously approved the second phase of cleanup at Sunny Acres Ranch. The decision is part of a July 2008 abatement order, which has so far resulted in mobile homes and temporary living facilities being condemned and the removal of dozens of vehicles strewn about the ranch. Officials argue DeVaul has far exceeded the number of vehicles allowed on agricultural property, and say most of the vehicles he has can’t be classified as agricultural in use.
But according to DeVaul’s newest representative, Cynthia Hawley, county code enforcement officials are making up the rules as they go along. “You’re taking a person’s property and you can’t just do it by your own judgment,” she said.
Art Trinidade, the county’s code enforcement supervisor, said code officers are following state and county laws. He went on to say local officials are giving DeVaul leeway to keep trucks on the property even though their actual agricultural use is questionable.
“To be perfectly honest, Mr. DeVaul made no effort to store these vehicles until we were actually on site executing the warrant,” Trinidade said.
In February, county supervisors ordered code enforcement to remove 26 vehicles from DeVaul’s ranch and place them in storage. In the recent second phase they ordered the removal of another 37. There are still four mobile homes that may be classified as recreational vehicles and removed at a later date.
DeVaul spoke briefly and said he didn’t feel county officials were willing to work with him. “It’s been confusing and I don’t think this is being handled properly,” he said, adding it’s like “arguing with Archie Bunker.” His representatives accused county officials of making “gentlemen’s agreements” with DeVaul but not following through.