Saying that all the issues regarding their nursery have been resolved, Julie DeVorss, who with her husband Don are co-owners of Green Valley Nursery in El Dorado Hills, said she is looking forward to their hearing before the El Dorado County Planning Commission meeting on their special use permit.
Pointing out that Monday’s Mountain Democrat article on the nursery’s woes didn’t describe everything they have done over the past three years to get to this point, DeVorss said that, “All of these initial things that were stated were found to be either incorrect or were fixed. But we certainly are not operating in violation of various county, state and federal regulations. It’s a wonderful property and the county is doing everything they can to keep us here.”
Saying they have been in business since the end of 2003, DeVorss said she and her husband were forced to move their nursery from their previous location because of the high cost of rent. Needing a place quickly, she said the owners of the property where they are currently located — the Oroscos — worked with the DeVorss to make the new location affordable.
“Poor Mr. Orosco had this property that is commercial, had well water and he loved farming. Such a kind and wonderful man,” she said. “He provided a place for us. We had no idea we were going to encounter all these issues.” DeVorss said Orosco worked out a rental arrangement with the couple and they have been there ever since.
“Our old location was right up the street and didn’t require a special use permit. We and Mr. Orosco thought because it was commercial property, we’d be fine to move here. It was after we moved that we came to understand he would have to do a whole planned development. We never thought we’d have to do something so huge,” she said.
DeVorss said the initial complaint to the county came because Orosco and a neighbor were involved in a property line dispute. Angry at Orosco, the neighbor contacted the county and complained about how the property was being used. That prompted the first visit by county code enforcement, which informed the DeVorss that they needed a special use permit. However, DeVorss said the county told them they could continue operating the nursery as long as they were in the process of applying for the permit.
A later complaint was that over 10,000 square feet had been graded without a permit and a stream bed and its bank had been bulldozed. DeVorss denies any grading was done. Orosco wanted to clear the area of tall brush and grass, which included digging down to the top layer of dirt, she said. Initially it appeared he had graded the area because there was a bobcat or bulldozer on the property and the soil had been turned. DeVorss said as a result of the complaint, a biological study was ordered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers later holding a hearing on the findings.
DeVorss said the outcome of the study was a report, costing thousands of dollars, that concluded nothing had been disturbed. “It’s not a stream. It’s an intermittent drainage area,” she said. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had to come out due to an erroneous complaint which cost the owner a whole lot of money. We were surprised that we had to go through all of this. Unfortunately, Mr. Orosco died in the middle of all of this.”
However, the county planning report does reference an intermittent stream in the area and notes that “up and down-stream from the site, willows, valley oaks and cottonwoods exist that show that this is a viable biological stream system that drains a large watershed area, albeit portions of (it) have been stripped of natural vegetation mechanically and with weed killers in the past.”
Another nonconforming use on the property was a modular building without the requisite water or public sewer system. DeVorss said while they have a modular building, “We don’t need a building permit for it because it has a special insignia and is part of the planned development.” DeVorss said they do have well water but hooking up to EID would be too expensive. Instead, as part of completing the planned development process, the owner plans to put in a septic system and eventually a permanent bathroom and building to house it.
DeVorss said she and Orosco did miss the technical advisory committee meeting, but only because of illness. She said she called ahead to let county staff know and later apologized by e-mail for missing the meeting.
Saying they had taken care of all the issues identified in the staff report, DeVorss said, “We would not be recommended for approval if we were still in violation of various county, state and federal regulations … we have jumped through every doggone hoop that we could possibly jump through at this point.”
Saying that they love the business and the community, DeVorss said she and her husband have always given a lot back to it.
“Every year we sell cut Christmas trees,” she said. “If someone can’t afford a tree, we make sure they get a tree. Also for every Christmas tree sold here, we donate $10 back to that customer’s school, which is something we have been doing for four years. The schools love it,” she said, noting that the program has resulted in thousands of dollars going to local schools. Besides that program, in 2013 they donated another $4,300 worth of plants and trees to local schools.
“We also donate to the El Dorado Community Service District. We gave three large live Christmas trees, each of which cost $300, for the kids to decorate. We provide trees and plants for events. The Eagle Scouts have a program to beautify schools and we have donated trees and plants to their project. We donated $3,800 plants and trees to Jackson Elementary alone to beautify their school a few years ago. We also have a winter and spring garden and have been working with the Food Bank so they can provide more fresh vegetables to their clients.”
DeVorss said they are looking forward to getting back to their main job of running their nursery.
“We have been in business here a long time,” she said. “We don’t want to go anywhere. We want to continue to grow with our community.”
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.