County Revokes Permit for Gravel Hauler Because of Truck Problems : Safety: Somis Sand and Rock Inc. trucks made 300 round-trips daily on a two-lane road. Residents said the trucks were hazardous.


Under pressure from residents upset about truck traffic, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors has revoked the operating permit of a Somis dirt- and gravel-hauling company.

The decision means that Somis Sand and Rock Inc. either must close its quarry business in Balcom Canyon or, to keep its permit, comply with numerous county requirements, including curtailing about half of its operations.

Richard Atkinson, an attorney for the gravel company, and company owner Dave Smith declined to comment after Tuesday's action.

But Supervisor James Dougherty called the operation a public nuisance, because of the danger posed by its trucks. In addition, Dougherty said, the company did not attempt to negotiate or take responsibility for any problems raised by citizens or county officials.

"I think we have to give a clear message: Don't come to this county and say, 'I want to do business here, but I'm not responsible,' " Dougherty said.

Norman Blacher, a spokesman for Citizens for a Safe Balcom Canyon Road, the neighborhood group seeking the permit revocation, said he was pleased by the board's decision.

"They saw that the issues of public safety are overriding and that the operator was uncooperative. This was rampant neglect of public safety," said Blacher, a former head of the Ventura County Assn. of Governments.

The residents were appealing an October action by the county Planning Commission, which imposed a series of restrictions on the operation. Blacher, a 16-year resident in Balcom Canyon, said his group thought the Planning Commission had not gone far enough in limiting truck traffic on narrow, winding Balcom Canyon Road.

Truck drivers were forced to use the two-lane road to haul loads from the quarry about three miles to California 118 after the only alternate route, Bradley Road, was closed to trucks in February.

Residents said the 60-foot trucks jeopardized cars, school buses, postal vehicles and agricultural vehicles because they often crossed into oncoming traffic lanes to manage corners. The group said excessive speeds and aggressive driving, noise, air pollution and high dust levels contributed to the problems.

Blacher cited California Highway Patrol statistics to indicate that there was a high accident rate involving trucks in the area, including a fatal accident involving a Somis Sand and Rock truck in 1987 and a head-on collision involving two of the company's trucks last April.

In October, the Planning Commission restricted the gravel company's operating hours and trimmed truck traffic to 300 daily round-trips. The commission forced the company to put tarps over trucks if dirt came within one foot of their tops and to pay for widening the intersection of California 118 and Balcom Canyon Road.

Blacher said that in a nine-hour workday, the approved 300 round-trips amounted to a truck traveling on Balcom Canyon Road every 1.8 minutes. He added that the trucks caused traffic jams during peak hours and threatened children getting on and off school buses.

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