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2 Cities Move to Get SOAR Measures on Ballot

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In separate moves to put farmland preservation measures on the fall ballot, the city of Camarillo sued county election officials Monday and a Moorpark group filed a new petition with the city clerk.

The Camarillo suit seeks to extend the county’s Friday deadline for placing that city’s measure on the Nov. 3 ballot. It requests an Aug. 3 hearing.

The suit claims that the county registrar of voters did not allow Camarillo enough time to file ballot arguments and rebuttals on the measure.

"[County Clerk] Richard Dean has set dates that are unreasonable,” the city’s attorney, Brian A. Pierik, said.

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Camarillo maintains that it moved as quickly as possible, considering a Libertarian Party lawsuit that held up City Council approval of the document.

Meanwhile, members of Moorpark’s Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources--or SOAR--group filed a petition with the city clerk in a last-ditch effort to bring the initiative before voters this year. A judge removed the group’s first measure from the November ballot because of a wording problem.

The current petition contains 3,377 signatures. About 1,600 valid signatures--or 10% of Moorpark’s registered voters--are needed for the measure to qualify.

Richard Francis, co-author of the Moorpark SOAR measure, said he considers the fate of the Camarillo suit an indicator of whether the Moorpark effort may succeed.

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“If Camarillo is correct, then there’s no reason why Moorpark shouldn’t be able to be on [the ballot],” Francis said.

The Moorpark SOAR proposal would require voter approval for projects outside city boundaries, including the 3,221-home Hidden Creek Ranch development north of town. That project was approved by the City Council this month, but the SOAR measure would require that it be sanctioned again by voters.

The Moorpark City Council’s rival growth-control measure is on the November ballot. It allows Hidden Creek to proceed without voter approval.

County elections chief Bruce Bradley said that even if Camarillo gets an extension, it might not help the Moorpark group because the Camarillo measure is further along.

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“With Camarillo . . . we still have some time,” Bradley said. “There’s no time left for Moorpark.”

In Camarillo, the City Council has approved the measure for the November ballot. The Moorpark signatures were just turned in Monday.

SOAR members said they wanted the signatures sent to the county Monday. But Moorpark City Clerk Deborah Traffenstedt said it was necessary to review petition wording to avoid a lawsuit such as the one that disqualified the first petition.

In addition, the council may not review the measure for several weeks.

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Traffenstedt said the SOAR measure is not yet on a council agenda, and that the earliest it may be considered is Aug. 19. At the Aug. 5 meeting, the council is scheduled to debate the Hidden Creek Ranch project and a new noise ordinance.

Bradley said all ballot materials must go to printers by Aug. 24. And, under the usual petition process, 10 days are required for submission of arguments for and against the measure, 10 days for rebuttals and 10 days for public hearings.

In Camarillo’s case, he said, there might be time to get the measure on the ballot if the council shortens the argument period and eliminates rebuttals.

“It doesn’t look good” for Moorpark’s chances, Bradley said.

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Bradley said he is worried other cities might request extensions if Camarillo’s is granted. Santa Paula has talked to him about that possibility, he said.

“Once the door is open, then it gets pretty chaotic,” he said.

Correspondent Jennifer Knight contributed to this story.


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