County Board of Supervisors Discuss Possible Lawsuit Against Governor Newsom •

The current county ordinance on the Paso Robles groundwater basin expires in January 2022.

SAN LOUIS OBISPO – The SLO County Board of Supervisors met at 9:00 a.m. today, January 26, and discussed the many issues facing the county throughout the day.

The Council confirmed Marianne Zaricka as District 1’s representative on the Committee on Aging, John Decow as District 5’s representative on the First Games Committee, Ann Cochran as District 1’s representative on the Parks and Recreation Committee, Paavo Ogren as District 3’s representative on the Water Resources Advisory Committee, Tom Ikeda as District 3’s representative on the Agriculture Advisory Committee, Craig Pritchard as District 1’s representative on the Agriculture Advisory Committee, Erica Baltodano as District 3’s representative on the Public Services Committee.

The Council heard Karen Lange and Paul Yoder of Yoder Antwych Schmelzer and Lange speak about the state’s legislative framework and possible changes for tenants and small landowners. The moratorium on evictions, which was set to expire on January 31, will be extended until June. The additional funds received by the state this year, including the departure of AirBNB and Door Dash, will allow it to provide financing to tenants and small landlords. In fact, landlords who are willing to provide retrospective rent exemptions can receive up to 70% of the rent subsidy from the federal government in exchange for agreeing to exempt another 30% of rent in the future.

The two main topics on the agenda were a possible lawsuit against Governor Gavin Newsom to remove San Luis OBISPO COUNTY from the Southern California region and the direction of land use policy development for the Paso Robles groundwater basin.

The Council heard from more than 50 community members about the Newsom process, both supporters and opponents, with an overwhelming majority of community members in favor and in support of the process.

Business leaders such as Kevin Kennedy, owner of Kennedy Club Fitness at four locations on the Central Coast, Patty Hoover, owner of Still Waters Vineyard, and Aaron Berg, owner of Calwise Distillery in Templeton, are all standing up for the right to be open and take care of their families and their employees’ jobs.

“No one should shut down my only way to make a living and that of my family,” said Brad Docci, owner of the Cider Creek bakery in Paso Robles and founder of the SAN LUIS OBISPO County Small Business Coalition.

However, not all opinions were in favor of this process. Gerry Clemens of SAN LUIS OBISPO was of a different opinion, “I think we should support Governor Newsom and what he is trying to do.” While sensitive to the financial concerns of many business owners, she believes the health of all Californians is an important concern and supports measures to stop the spread in the community.

Following the hearing, the Council met in camera to discuss the process and other matters and returned at 2:00 p.m. to discuss all resolutions adopted in camera and to determine the direction of land use policy development for the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin. Districts 1 and 5.

Chair Lynn Compton asked the legal counsel if there was anything to report from the session behind closed doors and Rita Neal replied that there was nothing to report.

The board made a motion to approve the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin Ordinance that is currently in effect in the county and expires in January 2022. Under the current ordinance, farmers must apply for a permit for new plantings or expansions, but this does not contribute to the county’s groundwater shortage because it does not affect existing plantings.

Kylie Hensley has proposed a three-phase temporary order that would act as a temporary ban beginning in January 2022, when the current order expires, until the new Groundwater Sustainability Program (GSP) can take effect. This new GSP will establish a methodology for determining baseline pumping use, how and to what extent it will be restricted, set timeframes for restricting pumping (also known as “flow reduction”), and adopt a formal regulation to implement the plan. This three-step ordinance would include a restriction clause until 2045 with a six-year cooling-off period and a 25-acre threshold.

The Commission listened to a large number of longtime community members, vineyard managers and ranchers, all of whom had their own opinions on the best way to protect the groundwater basin. Some of the many concerns were related to water appropriations and restrictions on current water use.

Supervisor Debbie Arnold addressed the community, “I appreciate all the feedback from all the callers … It’s been a long road over the last eight years,” she continued, pointing out that the current ordinance limits water use for some, while allowing others to use it unchecked. She further stated that the new multi-layer program will not affect existing irrigation in any way. She urged the controllers to vote with her.

Supervisor John Pashong asked some specific questions and stated that although the plan still needs to be reviewed, he agreed with the plan to switch to a three-tiered program.

Supervisor Bruce Gibson, however, was surprised that North County supervisors were considering approving the order. “I don’t see what good it would do except make things worse,” Gibson said. He went on to say that without a clear source of funding, the costs associated with this plan to bring businesses to the Paso Basin to begin irrigation appear to be subsidized solely by county taxpayers. His vote would be to extend the current ordinance for three to five years until the APS measures take effect.

Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg confirmed that water conservation is everyone’s top priority. She agreed with Mr. Gibson that at this time it would be best to extend the current emergency ordinance for a few years while we focus on groundwater remediation.

Arnold proposed a three-part program, supported by Peschong. After a lengthy discussion, Arnold, Peschong and Chairman Lynn Compton voted in favor, while Gibson and Ortiz-Legg voted against.

The full recording of the session can be found here.

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