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Happy New Year, Sunny Acres! 

Dan DeVaul has begun to fight the $12,000 in county fines he faces for alleged code violations that include selling Christmas trees on his ranch.

DeVaul, who operates the self-styled sober living facility Sunny Acres from his ranch, appeared on Feb. 1 before the planning department's hearing officer, Warren Hoag, to appeal the fines.

The county has alleged that DeVaul violated codes on his ranch late last year by grading without a permit, stockpiling grading material (dirt), operating a roadside stand without permits (the Christmas trees), and violating an initial stop-work order.

The Christmas tree incident is only the latest battle DeVaul has waged with the county over the use of his ranch. At the hearing, DeVaul discounted the latest charges, maintaining in part that the county has long been aware that he's sold Christmas trees and stockpiled dirt.

The roadside stand, he said, has operated at least in some capacity for 15 years. DeVaul also said that he has long carried out similar grading projects on his land to improve the soil there.

At the hearing, Hoag said that in light of new evidence submitted by DeVaul, he would need more time to make a decision. It's expected Feb. 11.

Whether or not DeVaul will have to pay $500 for each day he was in violation will be decided by the code enforcement officers--if DeVaul's appeal is rejected. Marie Cowan, who investigated all of the violations, said that she wouldn't make any decisions about the fines until the appeal process is over.

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