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Inspectors find more illegal building projects on Bill Horn’s ranch

By David Gotfredson

VALLEY CENTER, Calif. (CBS 8) - County code enforcement inspectors have found a total of four building projects without permits on the ranch of Supervisor Bill Horn. The illegal projects include a two-story agricultural building, a recreation room and garage addition, a water pump house, and a collapsed retaining wall holding up Horn's driveway.

A code enforcement report obtained by News 8 gives no indication exactly when the non-permitted projects were built.

Officials from the county's Department of Planning and Land Use, Code Enforcement Division, and Tax Assessor's office inspected Horn's ranch July 6, after a News 8 investigation first revealed the illegal room addition on his property.

East County community activist Charlene Ayers filed a complaint with county code enforcement June 25, the day after the initial television report aired, according to emails obtained by News 8. Horn then filed an application and plans with the county July 1 to get permits on the "as built" room addition.

Despite that timeline, county code enforcement officer Tim Kirkland filed a report July 19 saying, "Prior to Code Enforcement receiving complaints regarding the property, and prior to our site visit, the property owner's agent had already contacted the Building Counter and on July 1, 2010 submitted plans into plan check. Therefore, no additional enforcement is being taken at this time."

As a result, Horn is not facing any fines, citations, or investigation penalties above the normally required permit fees. In addition, there is no indication in the code enforcement file that officials will pursue cost recovery for the July 6 site visit.

A county spokesperson told News 8 that full cost recovery policies do not apply to code enforcement investigations.

Two of the violations involve one building on Horn's property. That's because the structure was built and expanded over the years in three separate stages.

Stage one was built with required permits in 1981, and is described as a single story barn.

Stage two was a non-permitted, two-story addition built sometime prior to 2006. It consists of a two-car garage on the bottom floor and a recreation room on the second floor.

Stage three was a two-story garage/recreation room addition built after 2006, again without required permits. This project was the room addition identified in News 8's initial investigation June 24.

A water pump house on horn's property was also built without permits, according the code enforcement report.

All together, the projects total more than 2,700 square feet of improvements that Horn is not paying property taxes on, because the non-permitted projects never triggered a tax reassessment.

The main house on the property – the home where Bill Horn actually lives – was built in 1980 and Horn did get a building permit for that.

The driveway leading up to the house is another story. The retaining wall holding up Horn's driveway has since collapsed and it, too, was built without building permits.

Experts tell News 8 the costs could be enormous to bring the retaining wall up to code, given the steepness of the driveway and the watershed below.

Code enforcement officers will now require Horn to get permits on all of these projects. Horn likely will end up paying thousands of dollars in permit and inspection fees, along with subsequent property tax increases.

In a statement to News 8, Horn wrote:

"When I became aware that I may need permits for work that has been done on my ranch, I hired a professional and we filed permits for all barn improvements, a pump house roof, and a retaining wall for my driveway.

The county has inspected my property and agree with us that "as-built" permits are necessary for these improvements and I have been in the process of getting permits for several weeks. I'm paying all necessary fees and assessments.

It may take several months to get the necessary permits and I apologize to my constituents for letting my personal business overshadow the good work we continue to do for North County."

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