SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – We’ve been following a Santa Barbara couple’s confusing back and forth with the county over their home security cameras, which they installed per the suggestion of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.
For the past year, County Public Works has been demanding the couple take those cameras down.
Now, county officials say the debate over Bill and Lara Urbany’s cameras will likely be a catalyst for new policies moving forward because this is a first for their office.
“I think it’s an asset to the neighborhood,” said Sally Saenger of Mission Canyon, one of Bill and Lara Urbany’s neighbor.
Saenger lives just a couple of doors down from the Urbany’s and calls their home security cameras “respectful.”
“They don’t show anything but the public access way,” said Saenger.
Santa Barbara County’s Deputy Director of Public Works says they got involved after a complaint was filed.
“We don’t do active enforcement generally for encroachment violations but we do if somebody reports a complaint, we go check it out and that’s what happened in this case,” said Chris Sneddon, Santa Barbara County Public Works Department Deputy Director.
However, in emails we obtained showing correspondence between the Urbany’s and County Supervisor Das Williams’ office, the complaint came from a Public Works employee who spotted the cameras while at a neighboring house.
“They bent over backward trying to please the powers that be. I think something is fishy here,” said Saenger.
The county is adamant that the cameras are located on a county road right away and the Urbany’s need an encroachment permit but Sneddon admits that there’s nothing on the books governing encroachment permits and cameras.
The Urbany’s were instructed to get the encroachment permit but then were told that Public Works doesn’t give out permits for cameras.
“This is kind of a new case for us. These cameras are getting more prevalent, home security cameras and things like that, so we are going to have to kind of work through the process a little bit. The understanding was that the most expedient thing to do was just to move them out of the road right of way,” said Sneddon.
But the Urbany’s did move their camera’s and the security company spoke directly with a supervisor at Public Works.
“Jemmie told Richard, the camera company, exactly where to put it exactly. Where to put it was on the fence line or right behind it so he sent his crews out, they did exactly what Jemmie said and his company sent a letter said we abated it and they called back the company and said not good enough,” said Lara Urbany.
When we pressed Sneddon on why his department would give specific instructions and then come back and refute the work this was his response: “I don’t want to go into they said this, we said this. We’re just trying to find a solution that works for everybody and not making it up as we go along but doing our research so that we’re doing this properly so that it’s following the rules and the laws that govern these type of things and that’s going to take some time to figure out,” said Sneddon.
So where does that leave Bill, Lara and their cameras? County Public Works say at this point they want to talk to the couple and find a solution that works for all parties involved.