Moorpark city leaders did not want golf driving ranges built in open space just outside of town. But the county approved the ranges anyway.
The City Council also opposed plans for a local gravel mine that would add more truck traffic to already clogged roads north of Moorpark. Again, county supervisors saw things differently and approved the expansion.
Frustrated at their apparent lack of clout concerning projects near, but outside, Moorpark’s boundaries, council members Wednesday will discuss extending the city’s sphere of influence, typically an area of county land over which a neighboring city wants to exert some control.
Unlike most cities, Moorpark has a sphere that coincides with the city’s boundaries and does not extend into adjacent unincorporated land. City officials were therefore powerless to stop the driving range projects and the expansion of the Transit Mixed Concrete mine several miles north of town.
“Right now, we simply have no influence over those kinds of decisions,” said Mayor Patrick Hunter. “And yet those decisions have such a direct impact on us that we really should have more influence.”
But spheres of influence are tricky things, granting cities more control over some projects than others and leaving final authority with the county. Even with greater control, Moorpark officials might not be able to block development projects they don’t like.
“The county always has the final say,” said Keith Turner, director of the Ventura County Planning Department.
And the process of expanding Moorpark’s sphere could cost tens of thousands of dollars, said Nelson Miller, the city’s community development director.
Ventura County’s Local Agency Formation Commission, an independent agency that oversees land-use issues when a city changes its boundaries, would have to approve any expansion of Moorpark’s sphere. To win such approval, city officials would have to go through a detailed application process, telling the commission what type of development the city would like to see included within the sphere.
Spheres of influence, Turner said, are designed to give the city limited authority over land the neighboring city eventually hopes to annex. Although some projects within a sphere--those projects considered urban uses, such as large housing developments--usually need approval from city officials, other projects don’t.
The gravel mine, for instance, lies too far outside Moorpark for city officials to annex that land. And Moorpark would have difficulty justifying to the commission why its sphere should extend several miles north of town, where it would include agricultural land that county officials want to preserve.
“That would be a real hard argument to make,” Turner said. “I understand that the city has a beef with those three projects, but I don’t believe that rationalizes placing that [land] under their sphere of influence.”
Wednesday’s council meeting will be the first step in the process, should council members decide to proceed. In spite of an expanded sphere’s limitations, Hunter said the idea is worth pursuing.