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SLO County Supervisors approve urgency rules for oak trees, groundwater storage

Mark Adams, Facebook
Land cleared of oaks and construction of a groundwater retention pond on property owned by Justin Vineyards

An urgency ordinance to protect native oak trees in San Luis Obispo County was added to the books Friday. The County Board of Supervisors approved the measure 4-1 during a special session. 

Supervisor Debbie Arnold, whose Fifth District includes Santa Margarita, Atascadero and Creston was the only dissenting vote.

"As much as I want to do this, I think we're going down some really wrong paths and I'm going to say 'no'," Arnold said while placing her vote on the motion.

The temporary ordinance takes effect immediately and lasts for 45 days. It could be extended for up to two years.

Supervisor Lynn Compton, whose Fourth District includes much of South County, said she'd like to see a permanent ordinance passed soon that isn't as broad as the urgency version.

The County took up the issue of protecting native oaks after it came to light that Justin Vineyards has clearcut thousands of oaks as part of the company's vineyard expansion efforts.

A recent project also included a massive groundwater retention pond.

The Board voted unanimously Friday to change how those types of ponds are approved.

It too is an urgency ordinance and will expire in 45 days unless the board acts to extend it. Staff was also directed to further research the process for a possible permanent version.