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Letter: County won’t allow farm sign; owners say it adds rural character 

To the editor,

We are neighbors first, a family farm second.

We love our neighborhood & would never deliberately offend our neighbors. The County of San Luis Obispo has informed us that someone has complained about our farm sign. They won’t say who complained or what the complaint was about. We don’t need to know who complained, but we would sure like to know what offended them so that we might be able to correct it.

The County is requiring that we remove our farm sign. This was a gift from my son-in-law. A local welder, a local powder coater, a local sign maker and a local crane operator were all used to construct this.

Before we installed this, I called the County in 2016 to assure we met the provisions of the sign ordinance, specifically, the farm exemption. A few months after we installed our farm sign, the County Code Enforcement declared this did not meet the farm exemption. At the time we had our website address instead of “Olive Farm” on the sign. Harley Voss maintained we were advertising more than just our farming business. Fair enough. We went back to the sign company and paid Sign Here to make the new Olive Farm signs. That should solve it.

Months later, the County decided they needed “as-builts” for this piece of farm art. Okay. I paid my contractor to draft and deliver “as-builts” to the County. That should solve it.

Over a year later, the County decided we should move the sign back into the orchard. That we can’t do. It will interfere with the over-the-row mechanical harvest. We reached out to our County Supervisor for help. Debbie Arnold was supportive, but John Peschong from District 1 was amazing. He scheduled a meeting on the property with Trevor Keith, the new Director of Building and Planning. On May 31, 2019, they came to an agreement that, in the interest of public safety, a structural engineer should be hired to assure our sign was properly built and could withstand winds and seismic issues in the area. Okay. I paid a structural engineering firm to come out and evaluate the sign. Mike Smith, a structural engineer, rendered his opinion and essentially approved the sign to be sound, but wanted to see more concrete above grade (the posts are sunk into 24” round, 20” deep concrete & rebar pads). That should solve it.

I have now been told on three different occasions to do three different things to resolve our sign issue. All this additional money was spent in good faith that the sign could stay where it is. Having been burned three times, before I added more concrete to the base, I reached out to the County for confirmation that this will finally resolve the sign issue. They delayed and needed to meet on this. Finally, on July 11, to my astonishment, I am told by Jennifer Caffe, Trevor’s assistant, via email that “Staff could not, in good faith, consider the existing water tank sign to be allowed” and “Please consider this to be the final decision on this matter.”

John Peschong requested one more meeting, and in his offices on August 29, Holly Phipps, County Planner, and Trevor declared that a complaint was the reason the sign now had to come down. Further, they are now referring to this as a structure that must meet building code and setback requirements. This was not mentioned in their previous requests for sign wording changes, as-builts, and structural engineering drawings.

I am reaching out to you, my neighbors, for your thoughts and particularly if there is a reason you don’t like our farm art. As Jim Green, Government Liaison for the Farm Bureau states, “The tank adds to the rural character and the sign on the tank fits size requirements.”

Link to petition to save the sign:

Karen Tallent
Groves on 41

East Templeton, Calif.

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