Official Says Proposed Beach City Faces Big Obstacles : Ventura Keys: A tax plan, hearings and an election are among the required steps. Secessionists expand the boundaries.
Seceding from the city of Ventura would be neither cheap nor easy, Ventura Keys residents learned Monday during lunch with a top Ventura County planner.
The Keys secessionists must draft plans to tax their neighbors, win their support and persuade the City Council to give up control of some of Ventura’s biggest tourist attractions, the planner told them.
Robert Braitman, executive director of the Local Agency Formation Commission, described the obstacles and costs of secession to about two dozen Keys residents who dream of founding a town called Ventura-by-the-Sea.
“The interest I sense is sincere,” Braitman told the group at the Pierpont Inn. “However, one has to be practical in terms of scale.”
Braitman said the proposed breakaway beach town must win LAFCO’s approval, then survive a public hearing with protests from less than 50% of its proposed residents.
It also must have a detailed plan for raising taxes to pay for city services such as fire and police protection and water, sewer and street systems.
And finally, it must win in an election by its residents and avoid being vetoed by the Ventura City Council.
“A lot of things have to be worked out,” admitted Brad Barnes, head of the secession study committee. “This really started as a political statement, and how far it gets carried has to do with how the politics in the city develop toward people within the proposed area.”
The secession move began as a joke, born of Keys residents’ frustrated attempts to make the city pay the $2.7-million cost of dredging their back-yard waterways. Keys residents say the city should pay to remove the silt from the waterways because it comes from city-owned drainage systems.
But the city has argued that the developer who carved the Keys and their waterways out of a drainage delta in 1964 agreed that the homeowners would pay for regular dredging.
The city has proposed to pay 25% of the dredging cost and bill the other 75% to the 299 Keys homeowners--which would cost each of them $1,680 a year. A hearing is set for Monday.
At Monday’s City Council meeting, Keys residents gave the council protest forms signed by 225 waterfront property owners who object to being assessed for the dredging.
“This is 90% political threat and 10% reality,” Barnes said. “We’re going to work on it and if they continue to try to put the screws to the people in the area, we’ll put the screws back on them.”
Since announcing the plan last week, the secessionists have expanded their dream beyond the borders of the Keys and the Ventura Port District, Barnes said. Revised borders for Ventura-by-the-Sea now include the Ventura Pier, San Buenaventura State Beach and the Ventura County Fairgrounds, he said.
Barnes said they also hope to include several hundred acres of unincorporated waterfront land owned by the Lusk Co. and to enlist its help in drafting detailed plans for the new city’s taxes and government.
“I’d listen to what they have to say,” said Peter Lauener, project manager for the Irvine-based company, which has been stymied in its bid to develop the land. But Lauener said: “I think it’s a very difficult endeavor . . . and they have not approached us.”
The strongest opposition to the secession move probably would come from the Ventura City Council.
Several council members called secession ill-conceived and unlikely to succeed.
“I’m not in favor of dividing the city in any way,” said Councilman James Monahan, the lone council member who supports city-funded dredging for the Keys.
“I can understand the frustrations of the homeowners and if I lived in the area, I’d probably feel very strongly in support of it,” Monahan said. “But I feel it’s far more costly to operate a city as small as that, more than the homeowners would care to get involved with.”
“They can’t secede without the permission of the city, and I’m not sure we’re going to give it to them,” Councilman John McWherter said. “It would sure get rid of a headache, that’s for sure. . . . They’re hollering about paying $1,600 a year to dredge the Keys, and they’d still have to pay for that.”
“I think it’s pretty ludicrous, quite frankly,” Councilman Gary Tuttle said. “The next thing they’ll be doing is trying to recall the City Council if they don’t get their way on this.”
That’s the plan, Barnes said.
The secessionists hope to help elect council members favorable to the new city, if not this November then perhaps in 1993, he said. But first, they plan to poll registered voters in the proposed city for their opinions, he said.
“It’s going to take a little time,” Barnes said.