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Pet facility controversy holds up county supervisors approval of Arroyo Grande fringe map 

Contentions about improvements to a pet day care facility became the backdrop for the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors' attempt to demystify the area just outside of Arroyo Grande's city limits.

The Nov. 28 update to the region's standards almost saw the inclusion of a new digital map that county staff believed to be the most current and accurate representation of the area. That map outlined the Arroyo Grande fringe area—residential rural and residential suburban zones known for their large open spaces that hug the boundaries of the city.

click to enlarge WIDE SUPPORT Many Springdale Pet Ranch clients expressed support for the pet facility and its expansions claiming that it provided the best available local care for their dogs. - SCREENSHOT TAKEN FROM SLO COUNTY PUBLIC CORRESPONDENCE
  • Screenshot Taken From SLO County Public Correspondence
  • WIDE SUPPORT Many Springdale Pet Ranch clients expressed support for the pet facility and its expansions claiming that it provided the best available local care for their dogs.

In August, the county Planning Commission unanimously recommended the map's approval, but pushback from the public about a pet facility in the fringe area compelled staff to remove the suggested boundaries from a public review draft. Many residents of the fringe area's Corbett Canyon region and Springdale Pet Ranch's neighbors believe that the facility illegally expanded. The modifications, which turned the previous allegedly indoor business into an outdoor day care with lighting, reportedly resulted in a greater volume of dogs, noise issues, and local traffic.

"The current attempt to make a nonconforming expansion legitimate by changing zoning is really disrespectful to the residents," Howard Hayashi, a Corbett Canyon Road resident, said during public comment at the Nov. 28 meeting. "Those residents have been abiding by the restrictions placed on them by the rural residential zoning in the Arroyo Grande fringe."

Hayashi was criticizing two of the three options that county staff presented to supervisors at the behest of the Planning Commission. The commission suggested finding ways to make Springdale come into compliance with the county code.

One option was to amend the fringe area's standards to allow kennels and other animal-keeping facilities through minor use permits within the residential rural land use category. A second option involved redrawing the fringe area map to exclude Springdale and four other parcels. While that would edge out Springdale, it would also lift the restrictions placed on parcels within the area.

Springdale has been the site of a dog kennel business since the 1980s—before the county designated Corbett Canyon as the Arroyo Grande fringe area in 1993. The fringe area prohibited dog kennels within its boundaries, but the county grandfathered Springdale in as a legal nonconforming business, enabling it to operate as it did before the designation, but not allowing any expansion.

However, SLO County issued two commercial building permits in 2002 and 2007, which the original property owners used to improve the Springdale property. The business changed hands in 2019 and the new property owners—Mark and Cheryl Balster—allegedly installed several outdoor kennels and lighting without the necessary permits.

This March, the county issued Springdale a notice of violation for the new expansions. Code enforcement staff noted recent changes like a dog day care area with chain-link animal enclosures on previously open space, shade structures for animal training, and outdoor lighting.

Assistant County Counsel Jon Ansolabehere told New Times that the hearing officer will make a decision on the code violations in mid- to late-January. Springdale's owners can appeal that decision to the SLO Superior Court.

"In terms of potential penalty, this code enforcement action and appeal involves the issuance of a $100 administrative fine," Ansolabehere said via email. "The bigger issue is whether the hearing officer (or court) agrees that there has been an unlawful expansion of a legal nonconforming use."

The Balsters' neighbors—Stephanie Stapleton and the Littell, Aler, Westra, McGuire, Foreman, Horzen, Gallagher, and Hayashi families—sued them in June for nuisance issues stemming from the alleged expansions of the pet facility.

Comments from Springdale supporters—mainly clients who received pet care from the business—and from its detractors peppered the Nov. 28 meeting. The influx of community opinion prompted Ansolabehere and 4th District Supervisor Jimmy Paulding to stress that "shutting down the kennel" is not a possibility because it's still a legally nonconforming facility.

Paulding underscored concerns from some community members that the boundaries of the updated Arroyo Grande fringe area map weren't accurate. Kip Morais, a county planner, said that the rules of interpretation allow the Planning and Development director to interpret the official maps, which the staff then digitized.

Morais added that including the map with the text of the existing county land use ordinance would make it identifiable to residents and help "avoid oversights regarding the applicability of the Arroyo Grande fringe standards to parcels" in the area.

However, the supervisors decided to take no action in a 3-0 vote with 2nd District Supervisor Bruce Gibson recusing himself and 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold absent. Gibson recused himself for being a regular Springdale customer.

Supervisors decided to review the map's accuracy and bring the item back for discussion once the code enforcement hearing officer makes a decision on Springdale's expansion projects.

"The term 'expansion' could mean many things," 3rd District Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg said with a laugh. "It's one of those situations why the hearing officer said, 'This is a hot mess.'" Δ


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