State eyes Morro Bay commune for violations
October 21, 2013
By DANIEL BLACKBURN
A destination for the downtrodden on the outskirts of Morro Bay has been circumventing a variety of building codes and environmental regulations for more than four decades, and now an official of the California Coastal Commission is chiding county officials for the protracted paralysis.
Additionally, county officials’ options for correcting the problems appear to be very limited.
Catering to down-and-out residents, Roandoak of God has expanded over the years from its original, and permitted, use as a single-family residence, to a commune that often shelters more than 30 paying residents at a time. Its location on a quiet rural residential road disrupts the neighborhood, some say.
Originally a barracks building from Vandenberg Air Force Base, the structure was moved to the Morro Bay site in the mid 1970s.
During the next 15 years, many permits were required of the facility as it grew, but few of those permits were ever actually applied for, or granted. Roandoak has been slated for destruction by county mandate on several occasions, but that has never happened.
Nancy Cave, the commission’s statewide enforcement supervisor, summarized findings of state investigators in an Oct. 3 letter to Nancy Orton, planning supervisor for the San Luis Obispo County Planning and Building Department.
“The interested parties now extend beyond” the county, Cave said.
Cave suggested county officials have largely ignored concerns of state officials ever since the latter began eying the Roandoak of God structure in 2010 “concerning various allegations of non-permitted development” on the property.
“We believe a major expansion and change in use occurred on the property in 1990 and the county failed to provide for us adequate information for approval of a coastal development permit,” Cave said.
Orton says the county is working with the state to resolve issues.
“As was stated in the Coastal Commission letter, ‘this is obviously a complicated case with a long history…’ and we are continuing to work with the Coastal Commission on resolving the issues. I have no further comment at this time,” Orton said in an email.
District Two supervisor Bruce Gibson did not respond to CalCoastNews requests for comment on Roandoak, though he was a recipient of Cave’s letter.
CalCoastNews first reported on the Roandoak issue in Feb. 2009 (“Selective code enforcement: Is it ‘God’s will?’”) noting an “on-again, off-again campaign by San Luis Obispo County code enforcement officers to force Roandoak to comply with building codes — efforts which to date have met little success. A large, two-story building housing dozens of Roandoak residents is not now permitted, and never has been, according to county officials.”
Next-door neighbor Carrie Burton runs a small ranch with her husband and has for years been waging a battle against the non-permitted sprawl at Roandoak, and what she contends is severe degradation of the area’s underground water supply caused by the commune.
“Roandoak is an admittedly illegal, non-permitted land use with decades of expired permits and non-met conditions,” Burton wrote in an e-mail to former supervisor Jim Patterson in 2009. “The county’s own building code says Roandoak should be deemed a new project, with today’s codes, standards and permits. The county is presently insisting that Roandoak is ‘a single-family residence with a single kitchen.’ ”
At various times, local government regulators have demanded Roandoak officials meet environmental, structural, plumbing and electrical requirements.
Most demands were simply ignored, as were requirements for building permits for the building. There has been no approval of the commune’s domestic water supply, and now local water supplies are tainted with coliforms and nitrates. There are inadequate septic systems on the property. Also lacking is a detailed site plan, and provisions for parking, landscaping, and height restrictions, as required by law.
State investigators note that Roandoak — also known as Chorro Creek Training Center — was registered with SLO County as a fictitious business in Sept. 2002, but the license expired in 2007. An organization listed as the “Discipleship Institut” (sic) then registered the fictitious name “Chorro Creek Ranch” which expired in 2011. Articles of incorporation filed over the years have long been suspended.
According to Cave, there are “two basic paths… for correcting these violations.”
One is to “require the subject site be restored to its pre-1990 configuration and use.”
The second would be to go through the appropriate permitting process for all new additions to the structure since 1990.
That would require county hearings, coastal development permit approvals, and other processes, and “each path presents certain challenges,” Cave said. “Please inform me no later than Nov. 4, 2013, how the county intends to address resolution of these coastal development permit issues.”