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Voters May Decide Fate of Midtown Plan

Opponents of Ventura’s plan to revitalize the city’s midtown corridor said Wednesday they have collected nearly 10,000 signatures in their campaign to put the Midtown Redevelopment Plan to a public vote.

Several supporters of the group Ventura CARES delivered the signatures to the city clerk’s office Wednesday. The signatures have been gathered since Nov. 30, when the City Council voted 5-to-1 to adopt the midtown redevelopment ordinance.

Ventura CARES is a group of local and out-of-town residents and property owners who are campaigning to stop the midtown development process.

In order for the referendum to qualify for the ballot, there must be at least 6,418 valid signatures, said Deputy City Clerk Mabi Plisky. The city now has 30 days to check the signatures--Plisky said the city will contract with the county elections office to do the checking.

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If the required number of signatures has been legally collected, the original ordinance will go back before the City Council. The council then has three options: repealing the ordinance, placing the referendum on the November 1999 ballot or calling for a special election in the spring. If the measure goes to an election, it can be passed by a simple majority vote.

A special election could cost as much as $100,000, according to Bruce Bradley of the county elections office. If the referendum is added to the November ballot, Bradley said it would increase the cost of that election by $2,000. Bradley also said this is the first time he has heard of a redevelopment plan in the county being challenged through the election process.

Supporters of Ventura CARES allege that the revitalization plan robs funds from public services such as education and law enforcement and that it gives the city the power to take private property to make way for larger projects.

Christopher Sutton, the attorney representing Ventura CARES, said the group has spent close to $10,000 on its anti-redevelopment campaign.

If the redevelopment plan withstands this challenge, property owners will be offered low-interest loans to renovate buildings, and financial assistance will be available to first-time home buyers.


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