Donate
News

Court Rules: Camarillo SOAR Measure “J” stays on the ballot

Ventura County STAR

Thursday, August 18, 2016

SOAR stays on Camarillo ballot

Judge denies land company’s appeal to block

By Kathleen Wilson

kwilson@vcstar.com 805-437-0271

A Ventura County judge ruled Wednesday that the SOAR extension measure for Camarillo can stay on the November ballot.

Superior Court Judge Vincent O’Neill denied Calleguas Land Co.’s request to block the measure. The company and Camarillo resident Wayne Davey sued city officials over alleged failures in the voter petition process that was used to qualify the initiative.

O’Neill found no procedural errors that were serious enough to merit removal of the measure from the ballot. He did suggest there could be litigation after the election over a substantive issue: whether hundreds of acres of agricultural land were incorrectly described as being within the city.

That would only occur if the measure passes, according to O’Neill’s ruling that runs nearly three pages.

Chuck Cohen, an attorney for Calleguas Land Co., said a decision on an appeal would be made by late Thursday afternoon.

Elections officials say time is short. They have asked for a final court decision, including the results of an appeal, by Friday to meet ballot printing deadlines.

‘I’m disappointed,’ Cohen said of the ruling.

Richard Francis, an attorney for one of the signature-gatherers, said he was ‘generally gratified’ with the decision.

‘I think the judge had a very difficult case in front of him, and he did an admirable job of dealing with the arguments,’ Francis said.

The various Save Open space and Agricultural Resources measures across the county, enacted in the 1990s to 2000s, require voter approval for development of protected farmland and open space.

Proponents are asking Camarillo residents to renew a growth boundary set for the city in 1998, plus add a “Conejo Creek Voter Participation Area” for hundreds of acres of agricultural land outside the city limits.

Voter approval would be required to rezone that property to a nonagricultural use if the city annexes the land.

Calleguas, which owns most of the acreage, argued that the description misled voters into thinking they had authority over unincorporated county land. The city attorney’s summary shown to petition signers said the land was within the city but it is not.

The company had plans to develop 895 acres of agricultural land at the base of the Conejo Grade, but the project was rejected by the Camarillo City Council in the face of stiff community opposition.

Calleguas’ attorneys cited the description of the voter participation area as one reason the initiative should not appear on the ballot. But O’Neill’s ruling said that issue was beyond the realm of procedural matters properly brought before an election, especially given the short time for a decision.

Calleguas also claimed that the proponents failed to give required notice to the public and did not include the full text of the initiative in the petition that voters signed and that the measure lacked required language.

Proponents published a notice of their intent to circulate the petition in the Ventura County Star. Plaintiffs’ attorney Sean Welch said they had to do more than that because the newspaper has not been adjudicated by a court to be a general-circulation newspaper for Camarillo.

Notices should have been posted in three public locations on top of that because The Star was adjudicated in Ventura County but not Camarillo, he said.

O’Neill, though, agreed with the defendants’ claim that The Star acquired the adjudication of the Camarillo Daily News when its former owner purchased the local newspaper in 1992.

Plaintiffs said the initiative shown to voters omitted key portions of the original SOAR initiative passed in 1998 and a map. O’Neill said voters were not denied any relevant information.

“In sum, petitioners failed to show how the differing language or the different maps would render a voter incapable of understanding the full import of the 2016 measure,” he wrote.

A missing heading and clause enacting the measure were not disqualifying, he said.

The 1998 initiative expires at the end of 2020, and renewal would extend it until 2050.

(c) Ventura County Star

Powered by TECNAVIA


Friday August 19th, 2016

Land firm appeals judge’s SOAR ruling Land Company seeks to block Camarillo vote 

Calleguas Land Co. on Thursday appealed a ruling allowing the SOAR renewal measure for Camarillo to remain on the November ballot.

The company asked the 2nd District Court of Appeal for an emergency order to overturn a decision issued Wednesday by Ventura County Superior Court Judge Vincent O’Neill.

Calleguas asked the appeals court to disqualify the measure by Friday. Elections officials said they needed to know the final court decision by that date to meet printing deadlines.

Attorney Sean Welch said the lower court had “flatly ignored controlling law” in his 48-page petition for a reversal of O’Neill’s ruling.

“Without this court’s swift action, there might as well be no laws or standards governing the initiative process in Ventura County,” the attorney wrote.

Calleguas and Camarillo resident Wayne Davey sued the city of Camarillo in July over the petition process that was used to qualify the initiative.

Save Open-space and Agricultural Resources measures, enacted in the 1990s and 2000s across the county, require voter approval for development of protected farmland and open space.

Voters in seven cities including Camarillo also have established growth boundaries. They limit city governments from developing land beyond those borders for urban purposes without voter approval.

Camarillo’s 1998 initiative expires at the end of 2020, and renewal, ifapproved by voters in November, would extend it until 2050.

But beyond extending current provisions, the Camarillo measure planned for the November ballot contains a new wrinkle. It would add the “Conejo Creek Voter Participation Area” for hundreds of acres of agricultural land outside the city limits. Voter approval would be required to rezone the property at the base of the Conejo Grade to a nonagricultural use if the city annexes the land.

Calleguas owns most of the property and had plans to develop 895 acres, but the project was rejected by the Camarillo City Council in the face of stiff community opposition.

The company argues that the petition misled voters into thinking they had control over unincorporated county land. A city attorney’s summary described the land as being within the city when it is not.

Calleguas’ attorneys cited that description as one reason to block the measure. But O’Neill’s ruling said that issue was beyond the realm of procedural matters properly brought before an election, especially given the short time for a decision.

Nor did the judge find any other flaws that were serious enough to disqualify the measure from the ballot. Calleguas also claimed the proponents of the measure failed to give required notice to the public and did not include the full text of the initiative in the petition that voters signed. Nor did the measure contain required language, the plaintiffs’ lawsuit stated.

Attorney Richard Francis, who represents one of the circulators of the petition, said the odds of winning an appeal were steep.

“The judge did really work hard to do the right thing,” he said Thursday. “Even if we had lost, the amount of thought the judge had given to it is going to defeat any appeal.”


Saturday August 20th, 2016

Camarillo SOAR is OK’d for vote

Land owner has battled renewal vote 

A state appeals court has denied Calleguas Land Co.’s request for an emergency order to remove the Camarillo SOAR renewal measure from the November ballot.

Three justices in the 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the company’s request Friday afternoon, clearing the way for residents to vote on the landpreservation initiative.

The Save Open-space& Agricultural Resources, or SOAR, measure would renew until 2050 a law that places a growth boundary around the city. It also would require a public vote before agricultural land at the base of the Conejo Grade could be converted into nonagricultural use.

Calleguas, which sued to get the measure off the ballot, owns most of that land. The company had plans to develop 895 acres of agricultural land at the base of the grade, but the project was rejected by the Camarillo City Council in the face of stiff community opposition.

Chuck Cohen, an attorney for the company, called the decision disappointing but not a surprise.

“We just thought we needed to exhaust our remedies,” he said Friday.

Cohen said time was too short to appeal to the California Supreme Court.

The justices gave no reason for their decision. County elections officials had asked for a final court decision by Friday to meet ballot-printing deadlines.

Retiree Tad Dougherty, one of the circulators of a voter petition to put the measure on the ballot, welcomed the appeals court’s decision.

“After all the ups and downs, we’re glad to be on the ballot,“ he said. “We’re glad the citizens of Camarillo are going to be able to vote on this issue.”

Dougherty and other proponents twice collected about 6,000 signatures to qualify the measure.

The first petition was disqualified over an incorrect date, so they had to mount a second drive.

Then Calleguas and Camarillo resident Wayne Davey sued the city in July, alleging multiple errors and failures to meet state law in the process of qualifying the initiative for ballot.

After a two-day hearing, county Superior Court Judge Vincent O’Neill ruled Wednesday that the measure could proceed.

O’Neill found no procedural errors that were serious enough to merit removal of the measure. He did suggest there could be litigation after the election over a substantive issue: whether hundreds of acres had been incorrectly described as being within the city.

Calleguas also claimed the proponents failed to give required notice to the public and did not include the full text of the initiative in the petition that voters signed and that the measure lacked required language.


 

© Copyright 2012 Stop Conejo Creek Development. All Rights Reserved.