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SOAR May Look Good but It’s No Magic Wand

Rick McGrath is a farmer in Camarillo

In a Ventura County Perspective article headlined, “SOAR Leaders Focus on Forging Partnerships, Navigating Politics of Controlling Growth,” Feb. 22, Steve Bennett states that he does not have the right to demand that his property be rezoned to allow him to build a McDonald’s in his front yard.

That is a property restriction he knew about when he bought residential property.

“Same thing with these ag people,” he says. “They don’t have a right to demand to be rezoned when they bought land that not only was zoned ag but, the general plan says, we intend to stay ag.”

My great-grandfather purchased land in 1878. There was never any mention of such restrictions and if there had been, the population of Ventura County today would be somewhat reduced, as much of what is now residential was once farmland.

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I am sure that some of the citizens who occupy space that was once prime farmland support the Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources (SOAR) initiative, but I doubt that there would be a long line of those willing to return their property back to farmland or open space for the sake of a more pristine environment.

Mr. Bennett also claims that the farmers in Napa County say, “You don’t have farmers down there, you have farmer-developers down there. We have farmer-farmers up here.” I don’t know where he picked up that quote, but I find it difficult to visualize every single farmer in Napa somehow getting together and making a blanket statement like that about our farmers down here.

Of course some farmers sell to developers, just as they have everywhere, including Napa. This happens because people want to live here, work here and raise their children here. Steve Bennett is one of these people. I have no doubt that he has a genuine interest in the health of Ventura County, but these are irresponsible statements. He--along with all of us who live here, especially those of us who own homes--has benefited directly by what the farmer and developer have provided.

I attended two town hall meetings organized by the Agriculture Policy Working Group. I found the Oxnard meeting particularly discouraging. Most speakers were pro-SOAR. The impression I got from listening was that they like things the way they are. I’d be willing to bet that most of them moved here from somewhere else. For all I know, some may have moved here yesterday. But now it’s time to lock the door and throw away the key.

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And all of a sudden it’s time to blame the politician, farmer and developer. They’ve served their purpose and now make convenient scapegoats.

At face value, the SOAR initiative looks attractive, but don’t be deceived into thinking that it or any other such measure is a magic wand, and all we have to do is wave it and dreams come true.

We are all responsible for the Ventura County we see around us today, and we should all be willing to contribute toward the Ventura County we would like to see in the future.


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