ORDINANCE NO. 772
AN ORDINANCE OF THE COUNTY OF RIVERSIDE
DECLARING AS A FIRE HAZARD ABANDONED
OR NEGLECTED ORCHARDS, GROVES OR VINEYARDS,
AND ANCILLARY WEEDS AND DEBRIS AND PROVIDING
FOR THEIR ABATEMENT
The Board of Supervisors of the County of Riverside Ordains as follows:
Section 1. Findings.
The Board of Supervisors finds that there has been proliferation of abandoned or neglected orchards, groves and vineyards within the unincorporated areas of the County of Riverside. The dead or decaying trees, vines and plants present a fire hazard. The dead or decaying trees, vines and plants may result in a blight condition of the premises, may become a harborage for pests and rodents and may attract illegal dumping and other illegal and suspicious activities on the premises. Abandoned or neglected orchards, groves and vineyards are also an eyesore and decrease property values in the surrounding area.
Section 2. Duty to Abate Hazardous vegetation.
A. It shall be the duty of every owner, occupant, and person in control of any land or interest therein, or premises which are located in the unincorporated territory of the County of Riverside to abate therefrom, any dead or substantially dead orchard or grove trees, vines, crops, smudge pots, smudge pot fuels, ancillary equipment and dry grass, and/or other flammable vegetation, that constitutes a fire hazard which may endanger or damage neighboring property and/or crops as provided below.
B. Abatement of the neglected or abandoned orchard, grove or vineyard shall include, but not be limited to, the removal of dead or decaying plants or trees (excluding tree stumps no higher than six inches (6") above the ground), leaves and branches and the removal of all weeds, trash, debris, smudge pots and smudge pot fuels as above described from the property and disposing of all such matter in a lawful manner.
C. Abatement shall be carried out in conformance with all state and local environmental laws and regulations including, but not limited to, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Endangered Species Act.
Section 3. Public Nuisance.
All neglected or abandoned orchards, groves or vineyards, as above described, that constitute a fire, health, or safety hazard, which may endanger or injure neighboring property or the crops thereon, or the health, safety, or well-being or persons or property are hereby declared to be a public nuisance, which may be abated by the County as provided hereinafter. The cost of abatement may be assessed against the land pursuant to Riverside County Ordinance No. 725 and Government Code 25845 as a Special Assessment.
A. In the case of any parcel or contiguous parcels under the same ownership or control consisting of five (5) or less acres upon which such dead trees or vines, flammable vegetation and/or ancillary material exists, as described above, which may constitute a fire hazard, the requirements of this section shall be satisfied if the trees are cut down and removed or chipped and the ground with its remaining vegetation disced or mowed, for the entire acreage.
B. Where the acreage consists of more than five (5) acres the perimeter shall be cleared for a distance of one hundred (100) feet. On such parcels the interior shall be separated into five (5) acre blocks with each block being surrounded by a cleared path forty (40') feet in width. Groves, orchards or vineyards that are adjacent to developed properties may require larger perimeter clearances depending upon fuel loading and assets at risk as determined by the County Fire Chief or his designee.
C. The owner or possessor of the neglected parcel or parcels shall also dispose of all smudge pots and smudge pot fuels in a lawful manner, including the handling and disposing of such materials as hazardous waste when required.
D. The County Fire Chief may order, if circumstances so require, that additional removal take place, and that specific standards be met as set forth in Riverside County Ordinance No. 546, the Public Resources Code, or other recognized codes.
E. Public agencies owning or controlling lands on which abandoned or neglected groves or orchards are situated shall work with the County Fire Chief to develop an appropriate abatement program.
Section 4. Enforcement.
For the purpose of enforcing this ordinance, the County Fire Chief may designate any person or persons as his deputy in the performance of the duties enjoined upon him by this ordinance. In addition, each of the following officers within the County of Riverside is hereby designated to perform the same duties within the territory of the political subdivision which he serves and whenever the termACounty Fire Chief@is used hereinafter, the following officers are included in the meaning of such word, except that the County Fire Chief, himself, shall coordinate all such officers in the performance of these duties:
A. Chief or Chief Engineers of all Fire Protection Districts within the County, and their deputies;
B. Such other officers (including the Agricultural Commissioner and County Code Enforcement) as may be designated by the Board of Supervisors or the County Fire Chief.
Section 5. Notice to Remove.
It shall be the duty of the County Fire Chief, or any of his deputies, whenever such officer deems it necessary to enforce the duty set forth in Section 2 hereof, to issue a writtenANotice to Remove@by mailing to the owner(s) of the neglected parcel or parcels as shown on the tax rolls and by posting the property with aANotice to Remove@which shall be in substantially the form attached hereto as Exhibit A A @ .
The County Fire Chief or the Hazard Reduction Officer, as his designee, shall identify and rank in order of priority those parcels in the County which shall be posted and on which abatement shall be carried out in accordance with the following criteria: (1) assets at risk, (2) fire severity of the area, and (3) fire history of the area.
Section 6. Appeals.
A. Appeals Procedure. Any person who is adversely affected by the Notice set forth in Section 5 may appeal to the Board of Appeals within thirty (30) calendar days of the post-mark on the Notice to Abate by filing a written appeal with the County Fire Chief in the County Fire Department. Timely appeal shall stay any further action for removal or abatement until a hearing is held. The County Fire Chief or his or her designee shall promptly set the matter for hearing before the Board of Appeals and shall notify the Appellant by mail of the date and time established for such hearing, at least fifteen (15) days prior to said date. If the Appellant resides outside the County, the above period of notice by mail before the hearing shall be at least twenty-five (25) days. The Appellant shall have the right to appear in person or by agent, designated in writing, at the hearing and present oral, written, and/or photographic evidence.
The failure to timely file a written appeal with the County Fire Chief or to appear at the hearing before the Board of Appeals shall constitute a waiver of the right to a hearing and to appeal the decision of the County Fire Chief to abate the conditions on the property. The Board of Appeals shall decide the appeal and shall issue its decision which shall be a written recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors may adopt the recommendation without further notice of hearing or may set the matter for a hearing de novo before the Board of Supervisors.
B. Appeals Boards. An appeals board shall be established for each of Supervisorial Districts No. 1, 3 and 4 to hear appeals for properties located in each of those Districts. For cases arising for properties located in other supervisorial districts, the cases shall be heard and decided by the Appeals Board for Supervisorial District No. 3. Each Board shall be comprised of three (3) persons selected as follows: one (1) member shall be an officer of the County Fire Department selected by the County Fire Chief, but shall not be the issuing officer; one (1) member shall be nominated by the Riverside County Farm Bureau and one (1) member shall be a resident of the supervisorial district in which the property is located but shall not be engaged in agriculture as an owner operator, lender or investor. The member nominated by the Farm Bureau and the resident of the supervisorial district in which the property is located, i.e. nonagricultural member, shall be proposed for membership by the Supervisor of the particular district, i.e. District 1, 3 or 4, and shall be confirmed by a vote of the majority of the Board of Supervisors. The member nominated by the Farm Bureau and the resident member shall not be an owner or tenant of the property on which the abatement is proposed to take place or an owner or tenant of property located within one mile of the boundary of such property. All Appeals Board Members shall serve at the pleasure of the Board of Supervisors.
Section 7. Removal by Private Contractor and Establishment of Removal Costs, Administrative Fee, Special Assessment and Lien.
If, at the end of the time allowed for compliance in the original notice, or as extended in cases of appeal, or as specified by the Board of Appeals, compliance has not been accomplished, the County Fire Chief, may order the dead trees, vines, other flammable vegetation, and ancillary materials such as smudge pots and fuel to be removed by public officers, public employees, or may cause the removal to be carried out by a private contractor selected by the County Purchasing Agent in accordance with applicable statutes and in the manner and under the terms specified by the Board of Supervisors. The cost of such removal accompanied by a reasonable administrative charge may be imposed as a Special Assessment Lien upon the property, as authorized by Government Code Section 25845. The costs so assessed shall be limited to the actual costs incurred by the County of Riverside in enforcing abatement upon the parcels, including but not limited to payment to the contractor, costs of investigation, boundary determination, measurement, clerical, personnel, consultant, attorneys fees and an administrative cost to be set by the Board of Supervisors.
Section 8. Payment for Removal.
A. Procedure for Payment . When said removal has been completed, the agency or officer so causing the same to be accomplished shall render to the County Auditor-Controller, an itemized statement covering the costs of the work necessary for such removal. The County Auditor-Controller shall pay the same from the funds of the agency or officer causing said work to be done or from a funding source designated for this purpose. Thereafter, the agency shall present a written bill for payment to the owner. If complete payment is not made on behalf of the owner within thirty (30) calendar days after the bill was mailed, the agency shall certify to the County Auditor-Controller that the bill remains unpaid, together with such other information as may be required by law. The Auditor-Controller shall thereafter cause the charged amount to be entered upon the property from which removal was accomplished as a Special Assessment which shall be included in the next succeeding tax statement. Thereafter, the amount of the special assessment shall be collected at the same time, and in the same manner, as County taxes are collected, and shall constitute a lien if unpaid and shall be subject to the same penalties and the same procedure for sale, in the case of delinquency, as provided for ordinary County taxes, except that if any real property to which such lien would attach has been transferred or conveyed to a bona fide purchaser for value, or if a lien of a bona fide encumbrancer for value has been created and attached thereon prior to the date on which the first installment of such taxes would become delinquent, then the lien, which would otherwise be imposed by this section, will not attach to such real property an the costs of abatement, shall be transferred to the unsecured roll for collection.
B. Recorded Lien. Following the creation of a Special Assessment Lien, a Notice of Abatement Lien may be recorded. The notice shall identify the record owner or possessor of property, set forth the last known address of the record owner or possessor, set forth the date upon which abatement of the nuisance was ordered and the date the abatement was completed, and include a description of the real property subject to the lien and the amount of the abatement cost.
C. Appeals. A person may appeal the billed charges to the Board of Appeals, by following the appeal procedure provided in Section 6 above.
D. Cancellation of Claim. All or any portion of any such Special Assessment, lien, penalty or costs heretofore entered, shall, on order of the Board of Appeals, be canceled by the County Auditor-Controller, if the charges were charged or paid:
(1)More than once;
(2)Through clerical error;
(3)Through the error or mistake of the Board of Appeals, or of the Officer, Board or Commission designated by them to give notice, in respect to any material fact, including the case where the cost report rendered and confirmed, as hereinbefore provided, shows the County abated the nuisance but such is not the actual fact;
(5)On property acquired after the lien date by the state or by any county, city, school district, special district, or other political subdivision, and because of this public ownership, is not subject to sale for delinquent taxes.
E. Procedure for Refund of Payment. No order for a refund under the foregoing section shall be made except on a written claim:
(1)Verified by the person who actually paid the Special Assessment, his guardian, executor or administrator; and
(2)Filed within one (1) year after making the payment sought to be refunded.
F. The Fire Chief or his designee shall have a the authority to execute any document that may be required to release or extinguish an assessment or charge that has been recorded against a parcel.
Section 9. Violations.
It shall be an infraction or misdemeanor (as charged in the discretion of the issuing officer or prosecuting attorney) for any person, natural or corporate, owning, possessing, occupying, or controlling any lands or premises to fail to perform the duties set forth in Section 2 of this ordinance, or to fail to comply with the requirements in the Notice to Remove as specified in Section 5 of this ordinance, or to interfere with the performance of the duties herein specified for any of the officers named in this ordinance or their deputies, or to refuse to allow any such officer or their deputies or employees, or approved private contractors, to enter upon any premises for the purpose of inspecting and/or removing any dead or neglected trees, vines, vegetation or ancillary materials hereinbefore described, or to interfere in any manner whatever with said officers or contractors in the work of inspection and removal herein provided.
Section 10. Penalties for Violation, Recovery of Costs.
Upon conviction, punishment (if the offense was charged as a misdemeanor) shall be by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars ($100.00) or more than one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) and by imprisonment of not more than six (6) months, or both. Recovery of cost related to enforcement shall be as provided for in County Ordinance No. 725 which is incorporated herein by reference.
Section 11. Authority to Promulgate Reasonable Rules and Regulations.
The Board of Supervisors hereby reserves its right to adopt reasonable rules, regulations, and resolutions consistent with this ordinance to enforce, interpret, and carry out the provisions of this ordinance. Such rules may vary among different areas within the County.
Section 12. Severability.
If any clause, provision, sentence, or paragraph of this ordinance, or the application thereof, is deemed to be invalid as to any person, entity, or circumstance, such invalidity shall not affect the other provisions of this ordinance which shall remain in effect, and to this end, it is hereby declared that the provisions of this ordinance are severable.
Section 13. This ordinance shall take effect 30 days after its date of adoption.
ADOPTED: 10-14-97 (Eff.: 11-13-97)