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SANTA PAULA : City Will Continue Battle Against Jail

The Santa Paula City Council will try again to stop the county from building a jail between the city and Ventura, officials said Tuesday.

“Our valley is worth fighting to save,” said City Councilwoman Margaret Ely, who is opposed to the jail site because it may spur development in the city’s farmlands. “People keep forgetting what a viable industry agriculture is.”

The city plans to appeal a Superior Court judge’s ruling that its suit against the county had no merit.

The city filed a lawsuit in January contending that county officials failed to meet state environmental guidelines and violated an agreement to preserve agricultural lands when they bought 157 acres along Todd Road for the jail.

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But Superior Court Judge Barbara Lane threw out the lawsuit on May 24, saying that the greenbelt agreement between the two cities was not absolute and that the new jail space is consistent with community needs.

However, the Santa Paula City Council voted to appeal her decision after a closed session at its Sept. 2 meeting. The council will ask next week for an injunction to stop the funding of the project, said Rochelle Browne, an attorney hired by the city.

Such an injunction could delay construction for four to five years, said County Counsel Dennis L. Slivinski.

Browne said the county violated its General Plan when it purchased the jail property in 1990 without an environmental review. She said she will pursue the case through appeals court “as long as it takes.”

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“It would not be the first time a case was lost in courts and won on appeals,” Browne said.

A report compiled by the county in 1989 estimated that jail facilities will have to nearly double in size over the next 20 years to accommodate a growing population of inmates.

“The notion of stopping the jail is very narrow-minded,” Slivinski said. “Our office intends to resist this lawsuit as much as is necessary to prevail.”


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