HUGE THANK YOU TO ALL WHO HAVE DONATED TO THE WILDLIFE CORRIDOR LEGAL FUND 

YOUR DONATIONS MADE IT POSSIBLE!

ON APRIL 25TH, VC CoLAB FILED A COMPREHENSIVE LAWSUIT AGAINST THE COUNTY 

WE ARE SOLICITING $350,000 – $500,000 IN DONATIONS TO THE LEGAL FUND TO DEFEND THE LAWSUIT AND… WE ARE IN IT TO WIN IT!!!

OR – Please send in checks made out to VC CoLAB (Attention – Wildlife Corridor) and mail them to:

1672 Donlon Street, Ventura, CA  93003

For more information and updates on the Wildlife Corridor Ordinance please feel free to contact Lynn Jensen execdirector@colabvc.org or (805) 633-2291 for more technical information.

The Lawsuit was filed by Jeffer, Mangels, Butler, Mitchell, LLC

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors passed this complicated ordinance on 3-19-19, rezoning over 163,000 acres of land, severely limiting the security, usage, fire protection and value of private properties.

Ventura County Wildlife Corridor Map Adopted 3-19-19

(View Online County Map Layers)

Updated Information About the Ordinance

THE VC CoLAB LAWSUIT IS THE ONLY POSSIBLE OPTION TO NULLIFY THE ORDINANCE

The filing deadline for parties to challenge the whole of the ordinance has passed. As the County did not create an administrative appeal process for property owners, the only option for claims is an expensive individual property lawsuit based on takings.

WE ARE IN IT TO WIN IT – WITH YOUR HELP!

For the lawsuit to be successful, VC CoLAB will need funding of $350,000 to $500,000

We need your help in funding the litigation effort quickly to be able to defend the lawsuit!

For those in the main corridor (HCWC) we are recommending a $5,000-$10,000 donation. For those in the Critical Wildlife Passage Areas (CWPA) we are recommending a $15,000 to 25,000 donation

All Donations are Strictly Confidential

IT IS TIME FOR US TO STAND TOGETHER AGAINST GOVERNMENT TYRANNY

SOME HISTORY

Through VC CoLAB’s efforts, the ordinance was vastly improved before the Planning Commission Hearing on January 31, 2019 by the following:

  • Our diligent effort to work with County Planning staff leading to significant improvements in the ordinance language,

  • Several working meetings with The Nature Conservancy, National Park Service and South Coast Wildlands organizations,

  • Notification mailers and stakeholder meetings to inform property owners, and

  • Collaboration with many like-minded organizations.

Our huge presence at the Planning Commission Hearing produced many recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. A month later, on Friday, March 1, County Planning staff released a revised ordinance and updated mapping layers on their website. They incorporated many changes that, if adopted by the Board of Supervisors, would have been positive for our members including but not limited to:

  • Reducing the stream buffers to 100′ and removing many of the water features from the mapping layer,

  • Removing the Tierra Rejada Valley from the Critical Area,

  • Removing the Lockwood Valley from the ordinance

  • Specifically exempting commercial crop production and fencing to protect crops in the Critical Area

  • Removing the Compact Development Standards from the ordinance

HOWEVER: The mapping layer also revealed that the County had  granted a last minute pass by inexplicably removing 59 parcels (278 acres)from the overlay zone in neighborhoods in Santa Rosa Valley and Oak Park, due to political pressure from area residents.

These parcels are within Supervisor Linda Parks’ Municipal Advisory Committee jurisdiction and the removal has no scientific basis as it is in one of the narrowest parts of the corridor and near the  Mountclef Ridge, a truly critical wildlife habitat area.

As this removal process was not offered to any other areas of the County, this is a clear violation of equal protection and due process and a stark example of the County’s arbitrary and capricious decision making while constructing this ordinance.

This has infuriated property owners countywide!

What You Need to Know About This Ordinance

On Tuesday, March 12, the wildlife corridor ordinance was passed in a 3-2 vote by the Board of Supervisors with Supervisors’ Long and Huber dissenting.

Unfortunately, after another 8 hour hearing, The Board overturned the Planning Commission on several important issues, increasing the stream buffers to 200′, re-designating Tierra Rejada as Critical, and adding back many concrete containments to the stream layer.

Because the stream layer was referenced but not adopted, it is open to unaccountable changes that will affect property owners with no tracking or notice.

Then, the Board of Supervisors closed public comment, scheduled another hearing on March 19 and made significant changes to the ordinance without sending it back to the Planning Commission.

Through overwhelming feedback from our board of directors and membership, we determined that the final ordinance adopted on March 19 is unacceptable.

Why You Need to Fund This Lawsuit

The approved ordinance will change the zoning of all properties within the corridor. Restrictions apply to structures, fencing, lighting, uses and fire prevention efforts. County revenue will decrease as property values decline and these restrictions provide no solution for the primary barrier of wildlife passage across highways and freeways. (See VC Star Editorial by Supervisor Kelly Long: freeways, not farmers are the biggest obstacles to wildlife connectivity).

1- The rezoning covers over 163,000 acres and the complicated rules affect thousands of parcels, placing restrictions on new and replacement structures, security fencing and lighting. Any deviations will require expensive and time consuming discretionary permits including an environmental analysis and a public hearing.

2- Development, including structures and new or replacement fencing that is within a “surface water feature” as designated by the County, will require a discretionary Planned Development Permit as described above.

3- If existing structures or fencing within these water features are destroyed in a natural disaster such as a fire, there is no guarantee that the permit process will allow rebuilding. All existing structures will be considered non-conforming to zoning codes when the ordinance is effective.

4- The public hearing process will allow your neighbors to oppose your project and appeal it all the way to the Board of Supervisors before you can file a takings lawsuit.

5- Property values will decrease as sellers disclose the adopted wildlife corridor restrictions to buyers and the restrictions may prevent buyers from buying. The decrease in assessed values will lessen property tax revenue to the County potentially causing cuts in essential services.

6- Restrictions on security fencing and lighting will likely increase property crime in these largely remote areas. The fencing limitation of 10% of a parcel zoned OS or AE will allow criminals and trespassers unimpeded access onto your property as will the requirement for a 24 inch gap every 50 feet in a fence. These unrealistic rules will increase the burden on County Sheriff resources.

7- Adequate security fencing and lighting is necessary to deflect predator animals around neighborhoods thereby protecting both humans and animals from conflicts.

8- Restrictions on brush clearance within the County identified water features will hinder efforts to prevent fires from spreading into neighborhoods and cropland. Restricting brush clearance to 100′ around structures within drainages will endanger homes, increase fire insurance rates and render some structures uninsurable.

9- Parcels in “Critical Wildlife Passage Areas” are subject to higher level restrictions that will further devalue properties. New or replacement accessory structures are restricted to 100′ cluster areas regardless of lot size or topography. This would require barns to be built next to your house. Structures or fencing destroyed in a natural disaster will have no guarantee of rebuilding. Businesses with existing Conditional Use Permits could be subject to more restrictive conditions that could preclude future viability.

10- There are other more sensible solutions proposed by Fish and Wildlife agencies to ensure genetic diversity of wildlife.

CoLAB supports reasonable efforts to minimize impacts to wildlife movement within the County. However, many of the regulations in the proposed ordinance are legally flawed and scientifically unsupported, unwarranted, and unnecessary.

Fundamentals of the Lawsuit

The lawsuit is a Petition for Writ of Mandate and Complaint For Declaratory and Injunctive Relief. There are 8 Causes of Action:

1) County failed to conduct an adequate environmental review process for the project violating the California Environmental Quality Act. Despite the substantial evidence that was provided showing a possibility of significant environmental impacts, the County summarily dismissed and bypassed all CEQA obligations. Moreover, the County has violated CEQA because it has engaged in illegal project-splitting (piecemealing), because it separated the Ordinance from the General Plan Update in order to evade CEQA review.

2) The County violated Government Code section 65857. The Board of Supervisors made significant changes to the Ordinance that were not considered by the Planning Commission, and proceeded directly to approval of the Ordinance, in direct violation of Government Code §65855 and 65857.

3) Violation of Due Process, Equal Protection, Vested Property Rights, and Regulatory Taking, under the California and United States Constitutions. The lack of an appeals process as recommended by the Planning Commission violates the rights of landowners in Ventura County.

4) Given the lack of CEQA review, the County failed to support its regulations with any scientific or factual basis. Instead, the Ordinance is arbitrary and capricious, and not supported by substantial evidence. The designation of “Critical Areas” has no scientific basis. The County’s additions and subtractions of parcels subject to the ordinance were arbitrary, capricious and likely politically motivated. The evidence for the Ordinance comprises studies over 13 years old, with no updates, rendering the resulting regulations questionable at best. Thus, the studies that form the scientific, biological, and evidentiary basis for the Ordinance are both inaccurate and outdated.

5) County, acting under the color of the laws of the State of California, and the laws, regulations and customs of the County, deprived Petitioner of the rights and privileges secured by the United States Constitution and laws.

6) Ordinance would result in fundamental conflicts with at least three of the fundamental policy frameworks of the General Plan: mineral resources, hazards, and agriculture, precluding a finding of consistency between the Ordinance and the General Plan.

7) Ordinance restrictions will have the effect of reducing agricultural production, compromising the long-term productivity, and/or impairing existing or reasonably foreseeable agricultural uses, violating the California Land Conservation Act of 1965. (Williamson Act). Mineral extraction may also operate under Williamson Act contracts that will violate the law.

8) Despite the Ordinance’s inclusion of approximately 13,000 acres of classified and designated mineral resources, and two letters from the State Geologist reminding the County of its affirmative obligations under SMARA, including the preparation and transmittal of a Statement of Reasons, the County rejected its duties and nevertheless approved the Ordinance.

JMBM has a successful record against the County of Ventura, winning a case in 2018 for a wedding venue in Hidden Valley, Epona, LLC, et al. v. County of Ventura.

JMBM’s Land Use & Zoning Practice is Ranked as Los Angeles Metropolitan Tier 1 “Best Law Firm” for 2019 by U.S. News & World Report. We are working with Ben Reznik, Chair of JMBM’s Government, Land Use, Environmental & Energy Group in Los Angeles.

Three Recommendations for Action

1) Go to the County Online Mapper, find your parcel, click on the layers in the upper right hand corner of the screen and turn on the stream buffers. You may be surprised at the amount of your land that will be restricted from lighting, fencing, brush clearing/thinning and structures.

2) Help CoLAB fight this regulatory overreach by contributing to the VC CoLAB Wildlife Corridor Legal Fund:

OR – Please send in checks made out to VC CoLAB (Attention – Wildlife Corridor) and mail them to:

VC CoLAB, 1672 Donlon Street, Ventura, CA  93003

3) Join VC COLAB to help us fund our important work and to receive updates about the Wildlife Corridor Lawsuit and other private property issues.

 For more information and updates on the Wildlife Corridor Ordinance please continue to check this website page. Also, feel free to contact Lynn Jensen execdirector@colabvc.org or (805) 633-2291 for more technical information.

Thank you for taking the time to visit our website.

Sincerely,

Lynn Gray Jensen, Executive Director