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Ruling on Dredging Fees Is Appealed

Ventura Keys homeowners have appealed a decision by a Superior Court judge who ruled last month that the city of Ventura has the legal authority to charge them about $2,000 apiece every year to dredge silt from their backyard waterways.

Keys residents have fought the city for years over who should pay for removing silt and other debris that accumulates in the channels behind their homes.

The city created an assessment district in 1991 to pay for dredging. At that time, officials decided that the homeowners should pay three-quarters of the cost because they benefit the most from the waterways.

Keys residents said the assessment was unfair and illegal and filed three lawsuits against the city.

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In his ruling last month, Kern County Judge Stanley P. Chapin said the channels are in essence the “backyards” of the homeowners and therefore they receive a special benefit from the dredging.

Attorney Donald M. Adams, who represents one of the three groups of homeowners who have sued the city, filed an appeal to Chapin’s decision Friday on the grounds that the judge’s decision was erroneous.

“We think that [assessment] is clearly in violation of the law,” Adams said. He said lawyers representing residents in the other two cases plan to file similar appeals Monday.

City Atty. Pete Bulens said the appeals were expected. “Obviously they have the right to appeal,” he said. “But I believe we are on solid legal ground.”

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Both lawyers said the case will probably be tied up in the state Court of Appeal for the next year or more.


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