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SLO County shrinkage gets tentative OK

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Two county supervisors and the Port San Luis Harbor District are scratching their heads as the county leans toward handing about 5,070 acres of agricultural land to Santa Barbara County,.

Supervisors Katcho Achadjian, Harry Ovitt, and Jerry Lenthall tentatively approved a petition to shift the county boundary line and transfer a portion of the Suey Ranch to Santa Barbara County. SLO County still needs to approve an ordinance and hold a public hearing to finalize the decision.

The property is designated as agricultural in SLO County, but it borders Santa Maria. If the proposal goes through, SLO County would lose any say over land use as well as about $58,000 in annual property tax revenues.

Hours after the 3-2 vote, the Harbor District’s commissioners got their first chance to weigh in. The district was not given an opportunity to comment before the county cast its vote and all five commissioners seemed agitated that they had been left out of the process. If the boundary adjustment goes through, the district could lose about $2,000 of its annual property tax revenue and potentially be split between SLO and Santa Barbara counties.

The Harbor District commissioners may have been in agreement, but county supervisors were firmly divided. Supervisors Bruce Gibson and James Patterson voted against the proposal, both saying they saw “no compelling reason” to turn the land over.

“Even as we’re not absolutely committing ourselves to this,” Gibson said when it was clear that he was in the minority opinion, “I do have to ask why in the world we’re considering this.”

“For the life of me, I just don’t understand it,” Patterson said.

The Suey Ranch covers about 19,000 acres in SLO County. Ranch owners H.D. and Carol Perrett asked to remove part of the property—mostly covered by avocado trees —because it is prone to theft and vandalism from Santa Maria, making it tough for SLO County sheriff’s deputies to follow up.

The Perretts’ attorney said the land would remain agricultural, but when pressured by Gibson to record an agricultural easement, he said doing so would take away from Santa Barbara’s future land use decisions.

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