County denies tree removal
by Chris Wilson
Despite an emotional appeal by William Kaddis and his attorney,
and a last-minute $40 million lawsuit against the county of Ventura
attempting to force a continuance, the Planning Commission of
Ventura County voted unanimously to deny an appeal of violations
levied against him by the county planning director.
The decision holds Kaddis responsible or liable for the downing
of 301 state-protected oak trees and illegal grading on a 44-acre
parcel near Rancho Matilija. Commission chair Michael Wessner
stated several times that this was an administrative hearing
and not a court of law.
Kaddis has 10 days to file an appeal to the decision with the
County Board of Supervisors. During a break from the three-hour
meeting, he said he would take the matter to court if he had
County planning official Scott Ellison presented his report,
which included before-and-after aerial photographs showing the
destruction to the property.
The county staff report notes that Kaddis told Manager of County
Zoning Administration Todd Collart by phone that he received
anonymous racist hate mail and that the tree clearing may have
been a hate crime against him. Kaddis denied any involvement
in the oak and brush clearing at his property. He said he has
been mistreated by the county staff and by his neighbors at the
Baldwin Road property.
Kaddis raised his voice and banged his fingers on the lectern.
"I live a clean life," he hollered. "I have never
been convicted of anything. I am equal with you. I can stand
head to head and toe to toe with any of you. I am an American
just like any of you."
Kaddis crossed himself repeatedly and told to the commission
that he had been treated with hate and prejudice.
While the zoning violations are on hold and in the appeal process,
Kaddis also has filed for a conditional use permit to keep 37
dogs on the property. That CUP is currently in process, but,
Ellison said, would be invalidated if Kaddis is found to be in
violation of the zoning ordinance regarding the oak trees and
During the hearing, Kaddis argued that he loved both nature and
animals and that's why he's keeping the dogs on the property
to keep them from being euthanized. He said he'd rescued them
from a bad situation in Lancaster.
Kaddis said he had been a U.S. citizen for 31 years and that
he was Egyptian-American, Catholic, and works as a real estate
Ellison noted, with the aid of an overhead photograph, that the
property was situated in "an interesting neighborhood."
Ellison pointed to the Rancho Matilija development, the Farmont
Golf Course property and the road that leads to John Taft's Center
for Earth Concerns property, all of which sit side by side just
across Baldwin Road from the Kaddis tract. He reminded the commission
that each of these properties has elicited controversy in recent
Kaddis admitted renting the bulldozers alleged to have been used
to clear the land. He told the commission the dozer was to move
dead brush into the bottom of the canyon where it could be disposed
of, and that he'd acquired the necessary permits from the fire
department to do so. Kaddis said he doesn't know who cleared
the land or who vandalized the dozers and cut his irrigation
lines. In early September, Kaddis said he paid $981 and $4,300
for repairs to the dozers which were vandalized.
Kaddis said his rights were violated by because Collart trespassed
on Kaddis' land and wouldn't wait to make an appointment.
Prior to the hearing, the case arborist Paul Rogers was unwilling
to comment because of the pending lawsuit.
Kaddis' lawsuit against the county asks for $20 million in damages
and $20 million punitive. It was filed Wednesday morning with
the clerk of the Board of Supervisors.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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aerial view of the barren hillside off Burnham Road as it appeared
shortly after it was illegally cleared last autumn.