Group files new suit against Los Arboles
by Bret Bradigan
Not content to take a chance on a judge's ruling expected
shortly, the Environmental Coalition of Ventura County filed
suit against the city of Ojai to pre-emptively halt the Los Arboles
The city, and developer Lance Smigel, were served with their
notices Dec. 27.
Russ Baggerly, the president of the Environmental Coalition,
said the suit was filed "to preserve our right in these
issues." The Environmental Coalition contends that the variance
granted to the 23-unit Los Arboles condominium project, narrowing
the allowed distance between buildings from 45 to 25 feet, was
illegal. The city contends that the variance no longer matters,
since the Ojai General Plan was amended to allow the narrower
In October, Judge Johnson kicked out the environmental review
report for Los Arboles, ruling that it did not follow guidelines
set by the Ojai General Plan. She also cited deficiencies with
the project's traffic impact report, and the developer's contention
that the project's high density was needed to make it profitable.
The city responded with the information the judge requested and
challenged parts of her decision. She took the new information
under advisement at a Dec. 20 hearing and is expected to make
her ruling soon.
Should the judge rule in their favor, Baggerly said, "We'd
drop the suit."
Rae Hanstad, Ojai City Council member, said this latest suit
was "more of the same ... trying anything to stop the Los
Arboles project in court."
While the city contends that the variance is no longer at issue
because of the change to the general plan, Baggerly said, "The
zoning change is inconsistent with the general plan" ...
and that the city needs to "make the project consistent
with its policies and approve it."
Another important inconsistency, Baggerly said, is that levels
of service for traffic used to determine the project's impacts
came from Ventura County, "and have no relevance whatsoever.
The city has to adopt its own LOS."
Despite having been a party to previous suits against Los Arboles
and the city, the Citizens to Preserve the Ojai did not take
part in this action. Stan Greene, the CPO's administrative director,
said it was an issue of timing and coordination over the holidays,
and does not reflect any disagreement with the suit's aims.
"The vehemence of the opponents is surprising," said
Hanstad, "since this is an infill 'smart growth' housing
project on property already developed long ago. Los Arboles is
exactly the kind of growth promoted by S.O.A.R. advocates such
as the Environmental Coalition itself."
© 2003 The Ojai Valley News
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