Owners of two adjoining properties on Telegraph Road in Shelter Cove have been given 60 days to either remove illegal structures or to apply for a residential building permit, according to action taken by the board of supervisors at their meeting last Tuesday, Aug. 13.
After hearing pleas from the owner of one property and the caretaker of another, the board agreed to extend the original 30-day deadline for abatement to 60 days, and to allow the owners the alternative of obtaining a residential building permit.
Both properties were fenced, and one contained a shed, a Conex box container, and three greenhouses, according to county code enforcement officer Jeff Conner, who observed the properties several times in the past two years, most recently on Aug. 9.
The properties were found to be in violation of county codes, as well as Shelter Cove's unique Q zone, a “combining zone” that adds further restrictions to the basic residential zone.
The Shelter Cove Q zone forbids the construction of any “accessory structures” such as fences, greenhouses, and sheds until the owner receives a building permit to construct a residence.
Additionally, the county requires a building permit for any fence over six feet tall.
Conner told the board that he had first observed structures on the property in 2008. In June 2011, county planning staff referred a complaint about the property to the code enforcement unit.
Lacking permission to go on the property, Conner examined it through gaps in the fence as well as a vantage point on higher ground. He observed the shed, Conex box container, and a greenhouse as well as partial fencing. A notice of nuisance was served on the owner.
In September 2011 the property was sold to a business entity with a contact address in the Canary Islands.
When Conner returned in June 2012 he observed that the fence had been expanded onto the adjoining property, which originally had been owned by the same person, but which had been sold to an individual with a contact address in Montana.
The fence on the second property was 12 feet tall in places and screened almost all the property, but through a gap Conner was able to see what he estimated as five cubic feet of potting soil in a large mound. He was unable to determine if it was new or used soil, and was concerned about potential impacts to nearby Telegraph Creek, which provides water to customers of the Shelter Cove Resort Improvement District.
Because there had been no communication from any of the owners, past or present, to the original notice, a $2,500 administrative penalty was added to the property taxes.
The owners did not respond to the penalty notice, and furthermore the taxes were in arrears.
At a meeting with county officials in October 2012, the Shelter Cove RID board and many Cove residents called for more rigorous enforcement of code violations.
At a further meeting in February 2013, dissatisfied with what they felt was lack of action from the county, the RID board voted to send a letter to the supervisors with a list of the 15 properties they believed had the highest priority. The letter, which was copied to nearly a dozen local, state, and federal agencies, stated that the RID would seek legal advice if they did not receive a satisfactory response within 60 days.
The two properties in question were at the top of the priority list.
When Conner came back again to the properties in April of this year, he observed two more greenhouses on the first property.
Conner reported his findings to the board with a Power Point presentation that included pictures of structures on the properties.
Both the caretaker of the first property, representing the absent owner, and the owner of the second property expressed surprise and dismay that the structures violated any county or local codes.
The caretaker said the original owner built the shed to protect tools and equipment, and the current owner would like to continue to use it. He believed the new owner, whom he was representing, had never intended to build a house on the property.
The adjoining property owner said that a tall fence was needed to keep trespassers off his property. He was particularly concerned about litigation if anyone should be accidentally hurt on his property.
To a question about whether simply posting the property would protect the owner from responsibility for an accident, board chair and fifth district supervisor Ryan Sundberg noted, “I am a licensed insurance agent in the state of California, and I can tell you, you will be sued.”
Second district supervisor Estelle Fennell explained that the restrictions were unique to the Shelter Cove Q zone, which had been created some years back to replace expired covenants, codes, and restrictions (CC&Rs), reflecting the desire of the RID and residents to keep Shelter Cove a residential community.
Allowing other structures to exist without a residence turns the properties “essentially into business properties,” third district supervisor Mark Lovelace added, which would also give the owner of such a business an unfair advantage over other businesses that are required to comply with local regulations.
But the supervisors did try to find other options for the owner. Fourth district supervisor Virginia Bass suggested that the owners make their case to the RID board and ask them to approve a variance.
After some discussion, however, and with the advice of deputy county counsel Jefferson Billingsley, they determined that the variance itself would have to be approved by the county, a lengthy process, so that it could be legally established as part of the zoning ordinance and applied fairly to anyone who asked for it.
Finally, by a unanimous vote, the supervisors approved the revised order requiring abatement or proof of a residential building permit within 60 days.
If the owners do not comply within 60 days, Conner will come before the supervisors to request permission to clear the property.
Earlier in the day, the supervisors also approved a request from the RID board to appoint Dennis Harper to finish the term of the late Roger Bodecker. Fennell acknowledged the contributions of both men.
”Roger will be greatly missed in the Cove,” she said. She wished Harper good luck.
Second district supervisor Estelle Fennell