SOAR’s Impact on Agency May Renew Debate
If there is any potential for the SOAR debate to heat up again in Ventura County, it could be in how the growth-control initiatives affect the commission that governs annexation and boundary issues, a county planner said Saturday.
“That’s probably where we’re going to get into some gray areas,” Gene Kjellberg said.
The Local Agency Formation Commission got much of the attention Saturday at a public forum to answer questions on SOAR’s implementation.
The Ventura County Agricultural Assn. has threatened to legally challenge the Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources measures approved in several county cities. The nonprofit group of farmers contends only LAFCO--not voters--can create and modify city boundaries.
But, Kjellberg said, “Whatever LAFCO does is unaffected by SOAR. SOAR cannot stop LAFCO from annexing.”
Leading up to November’s election, both sides of the SOAR issue spent their nights and weekends attending as many public forums as possible to lobby their positions.
And since passage of the SOAR initiatives, SOAR’s supporters and opponents have--apart from a few radio call-in shows--stepped away from the limelight.
On Saturday, however, several familiar faces from the SOAR debate reappeared at the invitation of the League of Women Voters of Ventura County.
“It’s one thing to make policy and another thing to act on it,” moderator Jean Harris said before introducing the four-man panel.
On hand to answer questions from the 60-member audience at the Oxnard Public Library were Kjellberg, Richard Francis, a former Ventura mayor and a coauthor of SOAR; Richard Pidduck, president of the Ventura County Farm Bureau, and Jim Churchill, an Ojai farmer who supports SOAR and called himself the only “nonexpert” on the panel.
The SOAR initiatives, approved by voters in November and January, prevent farmland and open space outside specified boundaries from being developed without voters’ approval. Those measures apply to five Ventura County cities and the unincorporated areas of the county.
Voters also supported the advisory Measure A, which had similar growth-control goals but did not bind the county’s elected officials to a specific course of action.
Francis said there is little left to do with SOAR, that the measure is largely self-executing.
The bigger question for him, he said, is whether county officials will follow the advice that voters gave in their support of Measure A, which SOAR’s opponents had painted as an alternative to SOAR’s stricter growth control.
Calling Measure A “subterfuge,” Francis said he sees no indication that county supervisors will act on the measure’s recommendations.
“Nobody ever took Measure A seriously,” he said after the forum.
But Kjellberg contended Supervisors John Flynn and Frank Schillo are examining issues surrounding A and would be making recommendations soon to the full board.
Even with SOAR and Measure A, Pidduck and Churchill said Ventura County’s growth and land-use issues are far from being solved, and advocated that residents not rely on SOAR to accomplish the county’s planning goals for the next 20 years.
“I think that there needs to be a good deal of collective thought among all of us,” Churchill said.