SLO County Supervisors approve oak tree and reservoir ordinances

July 16, 2016
Truckloads of lumber being removed

Truckloads of lumber being removed

While all five members of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors where in favor of implementing ordinances to protect the clear cutting of oak trees and the county’s underground water resources, supervisors disagreed over the best way to move forward. In the end, the board voted to implement two 45 day urgency ordinances.

Since Stewart and Lynda Resnick bought Justin Vineyards in 2010, they have cut down thousands of oak trees from properties they purchased in the North County. After aerial photos of the tree removal  where released, residents voiced their outrage.

Property owners have also voiced their concerns with Justin Vineyards using underground water sources to fill large reservoirs during a drought.

During Tuesday’s board meeting, Supervisor Bruce Gibson pushed for an ordinance that would require the county to verify oak trees were diseased before a property owner could remove the tree. Supervisor Debbie Arnold, who first approached county staff to draft an ordinance to protect the oaks, argued that Gibson’s request would be costly and burdensome to both the county and land owners.

Because of the drought, local landowners have had to deal with large numbers of distressed or diseased trees. The temporary ordinance requires property owners to provide proof of disease  after the tree is removed.

After a contentious discussion, the board voted 4-1 for an urgency ordinance that requires land owners who want to remove more than 10 percent of a tree canopy to get a conditional use permit. Those wishing to remove less than 10 percent, would need a minor use permit.

Arnold voiced concerns that rangeland was not differentiated from agricultural land. Several ranchers spoke of the need to manage their property, which includes removing trees which have not survived the drought.

Arnold voted against the urgency ordinance.

“I am disappointed I could not join my colleagues in supporting the Native Tree Interim Zoning/Urgency Ordinance today,” Arnold said. “I believe the urgent matter is the clear cutting of land being converted from rangeland to intensified farming. While I support a regulation to address the clear cutting of native oaks, in my opinion, this ordinance went too far in the requirements placed on owners of rangeland properties.”

Supervisor Lynn Compton also voiced concerns over the impact the urgency ordinance on those managing their property, but voted yes because of the temporary nature of the ordinance.

“Yes,” Compton voted. “But I will not support this as a permanent easement.”

Later in the afternoon, the supervisors voted unanimously, after gutting most of staff’s recommendations, to approve an ordinance that requires reservoir approvals to go through a county permit process.

Both ordinances will be in place for 45 days with an option for the Board of Supervisors to extend the temporary ordinances for up to two years.

“I will continue to work with staff and my colleagues to craft a permanent ordinance that protects our native oaks without punishing good stewards of the land,” Arnold said.

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Yes clear cutting is bad. However, if I had a client that needed one oak tree removed because it was threatening the home, I am not going to wait to keep my client safe just so some lacky who doesn’t know jack to come out and say it’s ok. Now, on the other hand, if someone s building a home or driveway, there are already rules in place for mitigation. What our sups should have done is ban removing trees from property that is zoned ag for planting purposes. Some people cut a few trees down every year for firewood on these parcels. The forest can sustain that in most instances.

In regards to the reservoirs- why is it okay for Supervisor Arnold’s family to have one and not mine?

I believe her reservoir has been there for several generations?

This is a said representation of why our BOS is screwed up. Gibson got more government control and opened the door to revisit all grading in the general plan. Lynn was too confused to do anything constructive and Debbie was too busy protecting her precious cattlemen at the expense of all others.

“Lynn was too confused to do anything constructive ”


In other words just4fun, they acted just as everyone thought they would. Why is this a surprise? The really hilarious thing is lil country girl Debbie campaigned at every stop for a tree protection ordinance prior to the election and then voted against it after. That’s big league politics.

BITD in Tree City USA the ordinance was easy to get around. Just wait until winter when a storm blew through and the next morning, when chain saws were going all over the city clearing downed trees, get out and do what you need to do. You were just clearing downed trees and limbs.

Why jump through all these hurdles just to trim my trees? I could just pull a Resnick move… Ask for forgiveness after cutting rather than permission before.

Or simply tell them you did not INTEND to cut anything down, despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary…

Once again, Compton showed how stoopid she is. If it is bad as a permanent fix than it is bad as a temporary fix.

Kind of like building moratoriums, not hardly…. We get it you just don”t like Compton

For good reason too.

As you see it, but apparently not a majority of the voters

I supported her and campaigned for her…but her utter cluelessness, especially as chair, and her penchant for being a drama queen has completely turned me against her.

She is the same person she has always been. If you supported and campaigned for her you should have seen that. We deserve the candidate we voted for so don’t complain now.

More than 10% of the canopy removal will require a CUP (conditional use permit). So if you have a distressed tree as a result of the drought and you need to have it trimmed more than 10% the county will require a CUP. Checking the county fee schedule on the internet the least expensive CUP I found was $666.

The government seems to squeeze us more and more everyday. I own my property and I have a distressed tree and now I’m going to have to obtain a CUP approval from the county. Of course you will not be able to just walk in and do this over the counter. More than likely you will be required to have an arborist report, somewhere around $500, and then schedule a Planning Commission date to have it heard. I can see where it could cost close to $1500 (fees, report and time expended) to get approval to trim a distressed tree on your own property. Big Brother is certainly out there watching out for you. The sad part is that in the end it will probably cost the Resnick’s nothing.

You nailed it Mr Holly…that is exactly the game. And if you don’t pony up the $1500…in costs for the permit, you will be fined $5000 (or some such crazy amount) and have to pay restitution to the County Employee Pension Fund.

I guess I have to add to my posting. With the cost of an arborist being very high who is going to trim their tree just for the heck of it? In most cases the cost of the CUP will be higher than the cost of arborist.

I read through the ordinance. Nowhere does it say anything about trimming trees or requiring a permit to do so.

45 days seems nothing more than a band-aid. Those who care little about the environment are already hard at work searching for a way around the temporary ordinance.

the conditional use permit process seems plausible as each property is unique and should be reviewed individually before any issuance of a permit.

Removal of oaks without a permit should result in a substantial fine that addressing mitigation.

Any Ordinance needs to have a strict time limit for Permit Approval or Rejection.

Property owners should not have to wait for months on the slow moving permit process.