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SLO's odor ordinance gets final approval

Despite requests from some residents that a new odor ordinance be revised or rejected, the San Luis Obispo City Council gave it final approval Tuesday.

The result was unchanged from the council’s first vote on the ordinance two weeks ago. Mayor Jan Marx and Councilmembers John Ashbaugh and Carlyn Christianson voted to approve it, while Councilmen Dan Carpenter and Dan Rivoire were opposed.

The ordinance will regulate any offensive and persistent odors that waft across property lines. It stemmed from complaints the city has received about medical marijuana being cultivated outdoors.

The new rules will apply to any smells and would include provisions specifying when enforcement actions, such as issuing a notice of violation or an administrative citation, could be taken. The new rules will go into effect in 30 days.

Six people spoke in opposition to the ordinance during the council's meeting Tuesday.

“I think it is trivial,” San Luis Obispo resident Gordon Mullin said. “Odors are minor and faint and elusive and only at certain times. I really don’t want to see city staff spend taxpayer dollars by tracking this down.”

The council majority said they believe the ordinance will give staff another tool to address egregious cases when a smell becomes a long-term issue, such as a pungent medical marijuana grow.

Marx mentioned a recent smelly situation in Paso Robles caused by new tank-rinse ponds at Firestone Walker Brewing Co. as an example of a concern that this ordinance could address, if it happened in San Luis Obispo.

“These are serious situations that are thankfully rare,” Marx said. “We’re not talking about barbecues or situations that come and go.”

Carpenter said he believes the ordinance is unenforceable and was targeted toward a minor problem but then “ballooned into this overreach that got out of control.”

“I can only imagine the amount of staff time that this is going to take,” he said.

Christianson disagreed, saying she does not believe the regulations would prompt a major outbreak of odor complaints.

“When pot becomes legalized, it’s going to become a concern more common than it is now, and this will be a tool we can use,” she said.

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