Agreement allows Dan De Vaul to build sober-living facility at Sunny Acres

tstrickland@thetribunenews.com and acornejo@thetribunenews.comApril 23, 2013 

Years of debate and code enforcement action over Dan De Vaul’s Sunny Acres property ended Tuesday in a legal settlement that allows the rancher to pursue plans to construct a sober-living facility for the homeless.

The agreement resolves a lawsuit filed by De Vaul against the county in 2009. De Vaul’s 72-acre property off Los Osos Valley Road has been the subject of nuisance abatement and enforcement action since 2001.

Sunny Acres provides care for homeless and addicted people, offering counseling and other services. De Vaul asks them to pay for room and board if they can, and many work on his ranch as payment.

The site has attracted attention over the years because it had people living in out-of-code ranch facilities such as sheds, tents and a dairy barn. Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall declared a public nuisance at the ranch in July 2010. As of fall 2012, 17 people lived on the site.

A court-appointed receivership controlled the property until earlier this month.

Crandall appointed a Cal Poly team to help De Vaul bring his property up to code. In June, the group finished its work. They coordinated improvements to electrical and plumbing systems and removed 122 tons of scrap.

De Vaul also had to ensure that all RVs, sheds, tents and other illegal living facilities were vacated and residents are provided safe drinking water with wells up to code.

County leaders look forward to “this new chapter with Mr. De Vaul and Sunny Acres,” County Counsel Nina Negranti told The Tribune.

“The county commends the collaborative efforts of the new board members of Sunny Acres and all of those who assisted Mr. De Vaul in remediating the De Vaul property,” she added.

De Vaul’s attorney, John Belsher of Belsher, Becker & Roberts in San Luis Obispo, said the new facility will help “the neediest of our county’s homeless population in a sober, working ranch environment.”

Belsher said plans call for building a second residence on the site as the sober living facility. He also noted that volunteer workers and funding are needed for the project and those interested can email Sunny Acres at sunnyacresca2@gmail.com.

A timeline on when the sober facility could be completed wasn’t immediately available.

The agreement also stipulates that De Vaul will maintain the property without any land use, building or health and safety violations.

The settlement, which dismisses the lawsuit, still has to be signed by Judge Crandall.

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