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Ballot Deadline for Camarillo SOAR Initiative Extended

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Faced with a lawsuit, Ventura County election officials agreed Tuesday to waive the deadline for the city of Camarillo to place a farmland preservation measure on the Nov. 3 ballot.

County officials agreed to the settlement following a brief court hearing on Camarillo’s lawsuit, which sought to extend the county’s Friday deadline for placing the city’s measure on the fall ballot.

The city now has until Aug. 20 to submit all arguments for and against the measure to the county registrar’s office. The county’s ballot materials must go to the printers by Aug. 24.

“I’m just glad that it’s resolved,” said Richard Francis, who helped draft the Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources initiative. “We’re glad to know that they’ve stopped fighting.”

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Camarillo officials say they are confident that they will be able to submit the ballot materials to the county on time.

“I don’t think we will have any problem meeting this deadline,” City Clerk Deborah Harrington said.

If the city fails to do so, it would be forced to call a special election that would cost the city as much as $52,000.

Initially, officials in the county registrar’s office questioned why Camarillo was late in submitting its ballot materials. Other cities with similar ballot proposals met the county’s deadline.

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But city officials maintain that they moved as fast as they could after settling a lawsuit with the Libertarian Party over signatures on a SOAR petition.

“Our City Council did not have an opportunity to meet following the lawsuit until July 22,” Harrington said, noting that two council members were not available to vote at that time.

Despite Camarillo’s success in securing an extension, a Moorpark group’s efforts to place a similar SOAR initiative on the fall ballot in that city appear to be too late.

Members of the group filed a second petition with the Moorpark city clerk Monday. A judge declared the group’s first petition invalid because of a wording problem.

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But the city clerk and city attorney are still reviewing the new petition--which includes 3,337 signatures--and have not filed it with the county registrar’s office for confirmation, said Bruce Bradley, the county’s elections chief. About 1,600 valid signatures--or 10% of Moorpark’s registered voters--are needed for the measure to qualify.

As a result, Bradley said, Moorpark officials will probably have to call a special election.

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, however, will appear on the November ballot. It would allow Hidden Creek to proceed without voter approval.

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