Rancho Palos Verdes City Council
   

TO:

TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUNCIL

FROM: DIRECTOR OF PLANNING, BUILDING & CODE ENFORCEMENT

DATE: JUNE 3, 2003

SUBJECT: ADOPTION OF RESOLUTION DENYING LARGE DOMESTIC ANIMAL NONCONFORMITY STATEMENT NO. 26 (SUTTON, 16 PEPPERTREE DRIVE)

Staff Coordinator: Kit Fox, AICP, Senior Planner

RECOMMENDATION

Adopt Resolution No. 2003-__, memorializing the City Council’s action of May 20, 2003 with respect to Large Domestic Animal Nonconformity Statement No. 26.

DISCUSSION

On May 20, 2003, the City Council concluded its review of the disputed Large Domestic Animal Nonconformity Statement No. 26 and, based upon the evidence that was presented, determined that the subject properties did not qualify for the "grandfathering" of nonconforming horse boarding and/or keeping pursuant to Section 17.46.080 of the Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code. This action, in effect, denied the Sutton’s request under Large Domestic Animal Nonconformity Statement No. 26. Staff has prepared the attached draft Resolution to memorialize the City Council’s action in this matter.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The property owner and the interested parties have been advised of the City Council’s consideration of this draft Resolution. However, because the hearing on this matter has been closed, the only public input that can be provided is on the issue of whether the content of the draft Resolution accurately reflects the decision that was made by the City Council on May 20, 2003. Thus, the public will not be able to re-argue the substantive issues that were raised in this case.

CONCLUSION

Based upon the previous City Council discussion, public testimony, Staff reports, Minutes and other records of these proceedings, Staff recommends adoption of the attached draft Resolution denying Large Domestic Animal Nonconformity Statement No. 26.

FISCAL IMPACT

The subject matter of this item will have no fiscal impact upon the City, regardless of the action taken.

ALTERNATIVES

The alternatives available for the City Council’s consideration include:

  1. Adopt the draft Resolution as proposed by Staff.
  2. If the Council finds that the draft Resolution is inaccurate or does not reflect accurately the Council’s decision, give direction to Staff to modify the draft Resolution, which could be read into the record at the June 3rd meeting, or if the revisions are extensive, continue consideration and adoption of the draft Resolution to the next City Council meeting.

Respectfully submitted:

Joel Rojas, AICP, Director of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement

Reviewed by:

Les Evans, City Manager

Attachments:

Resolution No. 2003-__

RESOLUTION NO. 2003-__

A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES DENYING LARGE DOMESTIC ANIMAL NONCONFORMITY STATEMENT NO. 26 FOR THE KEEPING AND/OR BOARDING OF MORE THAN FOUR (4) HORSES ON TWO CONTIGUOUS PARCELS TOTALING 4.016 ACRES IN AREA, LOCATED AT 16 PEPPERTREE DRIVE

WHEREAS, Section 17.46.080 (Nonconformities) of the Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code provides for the filing of nonconformity statements related to the keeping and/or boarding of large domestic animals in the City; and,

WHEREAS, on October 3, 1997, Everett and Marlene Sutton, the owners of two contiguous parcels at 16 Peppertree Drive in the Portuguese Bend community, timely submitted Large Domestic Animal Nonconformity Statement No. 26 to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, pursuant to Section 17.46.080 of the Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code; and,

WHEREAS, Large Domestic Animal Nonconformity Statement No. 26 stated that, as of February 1, 1997, ten (10) horses were kept on the Sutton’s combined parcels, of which seven (7) horses were boarded, and requested permission to "grandfather" these numbers of kept and boarded horses for the combined properties in perpetuity; and,

WHEREAS, on October 6, 1998, Staff conducted a site investigation to verify the information presented in the Suttons’ nonconformity statements, and observed four (4) horses on the subject property on that date; and,

WHEREAS, in 1999, Staff sought direction from the City Council regarding the final disposition on any disputed nonconformity statements, and the City Council determined that it would make the final determination on any such disputed statements; and,

WHEREAS, on August 20, 2002, Staff completed its review of Large Domestic Animal Nonconformity Statement No. 26 and determined that, based upon the provisions of Chapter 17.46 (Equestrian Overlay (Q) District) of the Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code and the evidence available at the time, a maximum of ten (10) horses could be kept on the Sutton’s property in perpetuity, of which a maximum of seven (7) horses could be boarded in perpetuity, pursuant to Section 17.46.080(C)(3) of the Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code; and,

WHEREAS, on September 3, 2002, Staff’s determination regarding Large Domestic Animal Nonconformity Statement No. 26 was contested by Joe Deeble; and,

WHEREAS, after providing notice to all interested parties, the City Council discussed Large Domestic Animal Nonconformity Statement No. 26 at a regular public meeting on October 15, 2002, January 21, 2003, February 18, 2003 and March 18, 2003, at which time all interested parties were given an opportunity to be heard and present evidence; and,

WHEREAS, on April 15, 2003, Mr. Everett W. Sutton came to the City Council meeting where the Resolution memorializing the City Council’s action was to be considered and requested that the public hearing be re-opened to allow Mr. Sutton to present his case to the City Council; and

WHEREAS, the City Council granted Mr. Sutton’s request and requested City staff to re-notice the public hearing, which was to be held on May 20, 2003; and,

WHEREAS, on May 20, 2003, the City Council conducted the duly noticed re-opened public hearing, at which time all interested parties were given an opportunity to be heard and present evidence.

NOW, THEREFORE, THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES DOES HEREBY FIND, DETERMINE, AND RESOLVE AS FOLLOWS:

Section 1: The City Council hereby makes the following findings of fact with respect to Large Domestic Animal Nonconformity Statement No. 26:

A. The Suttons filed Large Domestic Animal Nonconformity Statement No. 26 timely on October 3, 1997, the deadline established by Section 17.46.080 of the Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code. Pursuant to Section 17.46.080(A) of the Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code, the Suttons’ statement included:

1. Proof of the ownership of the lot or parcel;

2. A statement identifying the owner of each animal purportedly kept on the subject property as of February 1, 1997;

3. A statement of any other conditions for which a waiver was requested; and,

4. Permission from the Suttons for a City representative to enter upon said lot or parcel to verify the nonconforming condition(s).

B. The Suttons’ properties at 16 Peppertree Drive are located in the Portuguese Bend Equestrian Overlay (Q) District, one of four Equestrian Overlay (Q) districts established pursuant to Section 17.46.090 of the Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code.

C. The Suttons’ property consists of two parcels, of which one is developed with a home and the other contiguous parcel is "vacant", as that term is defined in Section 17.46.020 and is used throughout Chapter 17.46 of the Municipal Code. The developed parcel (Lot 15 in Block 1 of Tract 14118) is 24,200 square feet in area and the vacant, contiguous parcel (Lot 16 in Block 1 of Tract 14118) is 150,718 square feet in area. Both parcels exceed the minimum size requirements for the keeping of large domestic animals, as established by Section 17.46.020 of the current Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code and Section 17.12.020 of the Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code that was in effect prior to May 1997.

  1. The Suttons claimed to have legally kept ten horses on the two combined parcels on February 1, 1997, based upon the size of the combined parcels. This is greater than the four horses permitted by Section 17.46.020 of the current Development Code and equal to the ten horses that could have been permitted by Section 17.12.020 of the Development Code that was in effect prior to May 1997. The Suttons’ statement claimed that three of the horses were their own horses, and the remaining seven were boarded horses owned by four other parties. The City attempted to independently verify the number of boarded horses kept on the property on February 1, 1997, by directly contacting the four owners of the seven-boarded horses listed on the Suttons’ statement.
  2. Based upon the responses received from three of these four horse owners, the City Council found that the available evidence only supported the presence of one boarded horse on the property on February 1, 1997, in addition to the Suttons’ three horses. This was consistent with the number of horses observed on the subject property by City Staff on October 6, 1998 (i.e., four horses), and was also consistent with the written and oral testimony of many neighbors surrounding the Suttons’ property, which was based upon their personal experience and observation of the subject properties. At the public hearing on March 18, 2003 and May 20, 2003, Joe Deeble, Robert Maxwell, Betty Strauss, Daphne Clark and Jeanne Smolley all spoke about their personal observations and experiences of living near the Suttons’ properties in 1997, and provided consistent testimony that there were no more than three to five horses kept on the Suttons’ property at that time, except for a brief period when additional horses were brought to the Suttons’ property to artificially inflate the number of horses on the property for the purpose of filing the nonconformity statement. Although Mr. Sutton disputed the testimony of the neighbors at the May 20, 2003 public hearing, none of the persons who submitted letters regarding the boarding of their horses on the Suttons’ property ever appeared on any of the dates when the public hearing was held before the City Council to personally testify to the facts in support of Large Domestic Animal Nonconformity Statement No. 26. The lack of personal testimony in support of the application was particularly problematic with respect to the letters that had been submitted by Mr. Bill Mockridge and Mr. Edward J. Sutton, the applicant’s brother, because in the two letters that each of these individuals submitted in support of Mr. Sutton’s nonconformity statement, the numbers of horses that they allegedly boarded were different. Given these inconsistencies and the lack of personal testimony to explain the discrepancies, the City Council did not find the letters to provide adequate documentation upon which to base a decision about the number of horses that were boarded at the Suttons’ property. Therefore, the City Council finds that, based upon the preponderance of the credible evidence and testimony that was presented at the public hearings, no more than four horses were kept on the Suttons’ property on February 1, 1997, and only one of these horses was boarded, which was not a nonconforming condition . Therefore, the Suttons’ property is not eligible for "grand fathering" pursuant to Section 17.46.080 of the Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code.
  3. The Suttons provided evidence that they owned own the subject property on July 1, 1975, and claimed that they were legally boarding five (5) or more horses on the subject property on that date. Based upon these claims, the Suttons requested that the number of boarded horses "grandfathered" for the subject property be granted in perpetuity, pursuant to the so-called "pre-1975 boarding exemption" under Section 17.46.080(C)(3) of the Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code. The Suttons provided conflicting and inconsistent written testimony from a number of parties regarding the number of horses present on the subject property on July 1, 1975. City Staff reviewed the City’s property records for the subject property and found no conclusive evidence regarding the number of horses present on July 1, 1975, although an August 19, 1976 Planning Commission Staff report for Special Animal Permit No. 6 stated that the Suttons "[had] previously kept a maximum of six (6) horses at one time on said property, and presently [maintain] only one [horse]." In addition, oral and written testimony from many neighbors surrounding the Suttons’ property, which was based upon their personal experience and observation of the subject properties as far back as the late 1950’s, indicated that fewer than five horses were present on the Suttons’ property on July 1, 1975. At the public hearing on March 18, 2003 and May 20, 2003, Robert Maxwell, Betty Strauss, Daphne Clark and Jeanne Smolley all spoke about their personal observations and experiences of living near the Suttons’ properties in 1975, and provided consistent testimony that there was generally no more than one horse kept on the Suttons’ property at that time. Although Mr. Sutton disputed the testimony of the neighbors at the May 20, 2003 public hearing, none of the persons who submitted letters regarding the boarding of their horses on the Suttons’ property ever appeared before the City Council to personally testify to the facts in support of Large Domestic Animal Nonconformity Statement No. 26. The lack of personal testimony in support of the application was particularly problematic with respect to the letters that had been submitted by Mr. Bill Mockridge and Mr. Edward J. Sutton, the applicant’s brother, because in the two letters that each of these individuals submitted in support of Mr. Sutton’s nonconformity statement, the numbers of horses that they allegedly boarded were different. Given these inconsistencies and the lack of personal testimony to explain the discrepancies, the City Council did not find the letters to provide adequate documentation upon which to base a decision about the number of horses that were boarded at the Suttons’ property. In order to qualify for the "pre-1975 boarding exemption" under Section 17.46.080(C)(3) of the Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code, the Suttons needed to prove that they both owned the subject property and legally boarded five or more horses on it as of July 1, 1975. Therefore, the City Council finds that, based upon the preponderance of the credible evidence and testimony, fewer than five horses were legally boarded on the Suttons’ property on July 1, 1975, which was not a nonconforming condition that would entitle them to board more than four horses on their property in perpetuity. Therefore, based on the foregoing, and because the City Council has found that there was no legal nonconforming boarding of more than four horses on the Suttons’ property on February 1, 1997, the City Council also finds that the Suttons’ property is not eligible for "grandfathering" in perpetuity of the boarding of more than four horses, pursuant to Section 17.46.080(C)(3) of the Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code.

Section 2: Based upon the foregoing findings, the written and oral public testimony, the Staff reports, Minutes and other records of these proceedings, the City Council finds that there was no reliable, verifiable evidence of any nonconforming horsekeeping and/or -boarding activities on the subject properties on either February 1, 1997 or July 1, 1975, that could be "grandfathered" for the Suttons’ properties at 16 Peppertree Drive. As such, the request for Large Domestic Animal Nonconformity Statement No. 26 is denied. Based upon this determination, the following horsekeeping activities are permitted on these properties, pursuant to Chapter 17.46 of the Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code:

A. A maximum of four (4) horses may be kept on the two combined properties; and,

B. Of the four (4) horses allowed to be kept on the two combined properties, any or all of them may be boarded horses.

Section 3: None of the uses or activities authorized by this Resolution shall be construed as allowing, or having the effect of allowing, the keeping and/or boarding of any number of horses by the Suttons in violation of the terms of the March 5, 2002 plea agreement in the case of People of the State of California v. Everett W. Sutton (Case No. YA048989).

Section 4: The time within which the judicial review of the decision reflected in this Resolution, if available, must be sought is governed by Section 1094.6 of the California Code of Civil Procedure and other applicable short periods of limitation.

PASSED, APPROVED, AND ADOPTED this 3rd day of June 2003.

MAYOR

ATTEST:

CITY CLERK

STATE OF CALIFORNIA )

COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES ) ss

CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES )

I, JO PURCELL, City Clerk of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, do hereby certify that the above Resolution No. 2003-__ was duly and regularly passed and adopted by the said City Council at a regular meeting thereof held on June 3, 2003.

City Clerk

City of Rancho Palos Verdes