Whether to appoint a receiver to oversee the property that houses controversial San Luis Obispo rancher Dan De Vaul’s sober-living program will now be decided by a judge.
But after the conclusion of a hearing amidst a lawsuit Monday between De Vaul and the county, San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Charles S. Crandall said he didn’t know when he might make a ruling about the appointment of a receiver who would ensure De Vaul is complying with building and safety laws.
De Vaul says he can’t afford the cost of a receiver and fears losing his 72-acre Sunny Acres ranch on Los Osos Valley Road to foreclosure. De Vaul operates his sober living program there.
Crandall discussed possible resolutions to the case, including a nonprofit organization that would act as a receiver and continue efforts to resolve the permitting issues as the judge works toward an opinion on the receivership.
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He set Dec. 7 as the next hearing for a case status update, though his decision on the possibility of a receiver could come sooner.
The county and De Vaul disagree about whether the rancher has taken the appropriate steps to address county code violations in the wake of Crandall’s order for him to obey the law.
De Vaul’s lawyer, John Belsher, said multiple meetings between his client and the county in recent weeks over permitting have left complicated questions. Those involve specific electrical, plumbing and framing details.
But Belsher said the two sides have made progress and estimates a finalized permit on a demolition is about three weeks away.
Belsher said he also believes the county is trying to collect on about $150,000 in attorney fees and move forward with the appointment of a Beverly Hills law firm that would charge $500 per hour.
De Vaul listed $80,000 in savings, two vacant properties in Arizona and California Valley, and the Sunny Acres ranch as his assets in his testimony Monday — implying he couldn’t afford a receiver. De Vaul testified that he’s doing everything he can to comply.
“I’m frustrated because all this seems like it should be so simple, but yet it’s so far away,” De Vaul said outside court after the hearing. “We have been doing everything we can to resolve the problem.”
Terence Cassidy, the county’s lawyer, argued that De Vaul has long known about what he needs to do to comply with code and hasn’t submitted proper plans to the county to fix his violations because he “disagrees” with the law.
Cassidy alleged that a third story on a stucco barn where De Vaul has woodworking equipment doesn’t comply with code.
He said also plumbing and electricity never was permitted in some of De Vaul’s structures. But De Vaul claims that his dairy barn was built before permitting laws existed.
“The county’s efforts have been frustrated by multiple disagreements,” Cassidy said. “This motion isn’t about the county. Dan De Vaul has brought this on himself.”
Belsher suggested a mediator or retired judge step in to help the two sides work out ongoing disagreements on how to apply the codes.