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Morro Bay drops criminal charges against Grillis

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Carl Grilli and his wife, Judy, who have been enduring a legal saga surrounding a hedgerow of myoporum trees in their Morro Bay backyard, can breath a little easier now.

The Grillis were facing criminal charges from the city of Morro Bay, which contended that the hedgerow—now standing well over 20-feet-tall—violates city municipal code guidelines that limit hedges to 6-foot 6-inches tall.

The charges came as the most recent chapter in an entrenched legal battle between the Grillis and their neighbors, Bob and Susan Kraus. The Krauses sued Carl in 2013, and a judge ruled that the Grillis must reduce the trees’ height (See the Oct. 29 New Times article “Hedge-a-mony” for more detailed information).

For several years, as the neighborly feud escalated before, during, and after the lawsuit, the city opted to not get involved, saying it was a civil matter. More recently, however, after the code violation was not addressed, and with a court ruling saying that the trees needed to be trimmed, the city took a legal step to see the violation be corrected, said Morro Bay City Attorney Joe Pannone.

The city filed misdemeanor charges, which Pannone told New Times were intended to have the hedges fixed more than anything.

But, after the City Council discussed the matter in a special closed session meeting on Oct. 27, the city decided to drop the criminal charges.

At that meeting, the city received a petition with approximately 160 signatures from Morro Bay residents requesting that the charges be dropped.

On Oct. 28, the city sent a letter to the Grillis’ attorney, Peter Van Zandt, informing him and the Grillis that the criminal charges were dismissed.

Pannone told New Times that the city is already in the midst of reviewing their municipal code and considering the extent of which criminal sanctions should apply in the code’s enforcement. For that reason, he said, the city will wait until that process is concluded before considering further action.

The Grillis’ legal battle is not yet over though—they face contempt of court charges for not following the court order to cut the trees. They’ll be back in court on Nov. 23 for a hearing on that matter.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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