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Moorpark Council Race Centers on City’s Growing Pains

Times Staff Writer

The effect of Moorpark’s staggering growth rate on its quality of life has become the central issue in the race for three City Council seats.

Each of the nine candidates claims to be the best qualified to preserve the city’s semirural nature in spite of rapid growth. City Council incumbents Bernardo M. Perez and John Galloway are running for reelection Nov. 8, while Councilman John Patrick Lane has declined to enter the race.

Growth control became an issue in city politics two years ago when Moorpark voters approved an ordinance limiting housing construction to 250 units per year. However, the city’s population has shot up by 41% since the measure passed, from about 17,000 in 1986 to about 24,000, according to city Planning Department estimates.

The growth-control ordinance has not had an immediate impact because developers were issued more than 2,350 building permits shortly before the measure passed, Planning Department records show. In addition, the city earlier this year agreed to exempt the developer of a 2,500-home tract from the law.

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The developer, Urban West Communities of Santa Monica, had filed a $17-million suit against the city in Ventura County Superior Court, arguing that approval from the county in 1981 to build the housing project created a binding contract that could not be changed by later passage of a growth-control law. The county approved the project before Moorpark was incorporated in 1983. In April, Ventura County Judge Edwin M. Osbourne ruled in favor of Urban West. The city exempted the project from the growth-control law in exchange for an agreement by the developer to drop the $17-million suit.

But the resolution of the suit has not brought an end to Moorpark’s growing pains. During the next few years, the City Council will have to decide whether to grant about 18 requests to rezone much of the northern section of the city for housing tracts. The land is zoned for agricultural or low-density uses. The council also must decide whether to establish a proposed redevelopment district in the downtown area and will be under pressure to relieve traffic-choked streets.

City Council incumbents Perez and Galloway face stiff competition from the seven challengers, most of whom are capitalizing on public disenchantment with city officials after scandals in 1987. Qualities such as personal integrity and the ability to improve Moorpark’s image are commonly mentioned in the candidates’ campaign literature.

In January, 1987, City Councilman Danny Woolard resigned after pleading guilty to embezzling funds from his employer, the U.S. Postal Service. Woolard claimed that City Councilman Thomas C. (Bud) Ferguson, in an effort to influence Woolard’s vote, had loaned him tens of thousands of dollars while the two served on the council.

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Ferguson, who denied Woolard’s charges, was recalled last fall by an overwhelming majority of voters. Perez was elected in February to serve the remainder of Ferguson’s term. However, Ferguson is seeking to regain his seat in this election.

Drug Use

Galloway’s personal life came to the attention of voters this summer when he admitted smoking marijuana twice, once soon after graduating from high school and again last year, while serving on the council. Galloway admitted to the marijuana use after reports were published that he had made and sold ceramic pipes that could be used to smoke marijuana. He said he does not now use or advocate the use of illegal drugs.

In addition to the City Council races, voters will decide whether Moorpark’s mayor should be elected directly, and, if so, whether the mayor ought to serve a 2- or 4-year term. The City Council appoints one of its members to serve as mayor for a 1-year period.

Running for the Moorpark City Council are:

* Galloway, 34, a ceramics professor who has lived in Moorpark for 26 years. He supports the creation of a downtown redevelopment district, but only on the condition that the city specifically prohibit itself from having the power to condemn residential or commercial property.

In addition, he said that if the City Council plans to act as the redevelopment agency, its members must be elected by district to guarantee that all sectors of Moorpark are represented. Galloway said it may be more appropriate to annex county land and develop it, rather than build homes in the northern part of the city.

* Perez, 39, a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power representative who has lived in Moorpark for 18 years. He opposes developing the northern section of the city because “I am convinced that most people moved into Moorpark for the rural atmosphere, and I see no reason to deviate from the current zoning.”

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He supports the creation of a redevelopment district, he said, because the city could use the additional tax funds to build affordable housing. Perez is president of the board of directors of a nonprofit organization that provides funds for affordable housing in Ventura County.

* Ferguson, 69, who said he is seeking to regain the council seat he lost by a 3-1 margin in 1987 because voters “were brainwashed by special-interest groups, and I still have a lot to offer.” He said his positions on development issues do not matter since he plans to represent the majority of the residents affected by every project. Ferguson has leukemia but said the disease is in remission. He has lived in Moorpark for 17 years.

* Bill La Perch, 65, an ex-planning commissioner who has been a Moorpark resident for eight years. He opposes developing the northern part of the city, even though he said he could “make millions” of dollars if he sold the 25-acre horse ranch he owns there. “I’m for responsible growth, which means no occupancy of residential, commercial or industrial projects until more schools are built and the road widenings are in place.” He opposes establishing a redevelopment district.

* Paul Lawrason, 59, a Moorpark planning commissioner who said his 35 years of experience as a business manager would benefit the city. He supports gradually developing the northern section of the city “on terms favorable to the city, as long as our rural character is maintained.” He also supports creating a redevelopment district in the downtown area, although he would prohibit the city from having the power to condemn residential or commercial property. He ran unsuccessfully for City Council in February.

* Scott Montgomery, 35, a government financial adviser and a Moorpark planning commissioner. He said he has the skills to help Moorpark make wise investments and sound land-use decisions. Montgomery supports the creation of a redevelopment district. He ran unsuccessfully for City Council in February.

* John Roberts, 33, chairman of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission and a construction supervisor. He said he would evaluate each development proposal individually because “there are good projects and bad projects, and I can read a blueprint and tell the difference.” He said he supports redevelopment as long as no residents or business owners are displaced.

* Lynn K. Tingirides, 40, a Los Angeles police officer who has lived in Moorpark since April. She described Moorpark as a community split into longtime residents and newcomers. She said that she would unite the two groups, build more athletic facilities and start new programs for senior citizens.

* Leta Yancy-Sutton, 62, a real estate broker who has lived in Moorpark for 28 years. She served on the City Council from 1984 to 1986 and was the city’s first mayor. Yancy-Sutton ran unsuccessfully in 1986. At the time, she opposed the growth-control measure passed by voters but said she now supports it. She advocates the creation of a redevelopment district.

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