A Los Angeles County commission that sets municipal boundary lines refused for a second time Wednesday to widen Agoura Hills' "sphere of influence" beyond its city limits.
The county's Local Agency Formation Commission voted, 4 to 0, to reaffirm a 1985 ruling that restricted Agoura Hills' sphere--which reflects the city's "probable ultimate physical boundaries"--to its existing eight square miles.
The new vote was ordered by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge after Agoura Hills sued to overturn last year's commission action. The city alleged that the 1985 vote was invalid because two commissioners violated state conflict-of-interest laws by deliberating on the issue. The pair should have abstained because they accepted campaign contributions from owners of land just outside the city limits, Agoura Hills said.
The two commissioners, county Supervisor Mike Antonovich and Los Angeles City Councilman Hal Bernson, did not participate in Wednesday's vote.
Antonovich did not attend the meeting. Bernson left his board seat and sat in the audience when the issue came up. He was joined there by an alternate commission member, Los Angeles City Councilman Robert Farrell, who said he also might have received campaign funds from landowners in the area under dispute.
Members of the audience, including Agoura Hills' representatives, were not allowed to speak.
"I completely reviewed all the transcripts and information we've received and I've found nothing that would change my opinion," said Commissioner Henri F. Pellissier, a Whittier businessman.
After the new vote, Agoura Hills officials vowed to return to court to resume their fight with the agency.
Agoura Hills seeks a 9.4-square-mile sphere that would cover most undeveloped land south and east of the city, which is 10 miles west of the San Fernando Valley. The Ventura County line and the City of Westlake Village lie north and west of Agoura Hills.
A widened "sphere of influence" would give the town a voice in development of the outlying land and a chance to eventually annex it, city officials say.
City Atty. Gregory Stepanicich said the commission-designated sphere is illegal because it is an "arbitrary" boundary set without a proper environmental review. He said the commission also failed to explain its rationale for its decision.
"We feel very strongly that we deserve a good sphere of influence," Mayor Vicky Leary said. "Development in those areas and traffic from there impacts us. We can't pretend it isn't there."
While city officials had a lawsuit on their mind Wednesday, so did Bernson.
The northwest Valley councilman unsuccessfully sought an apology last month from Agoura Hills over the conflict-of-interest allegation. He said the city falsely accused him of participating in a commission discussion that led to last year's sphere-of-influence vote.
Two weeks ago, Bernson threatened to sue Agoura Hills officials if they did not retract the accusation.
"I've seen legal counsel. The courts are available to everyone," Bernson said after Wednesday's hearing. "I'm still awaiting an apology. I'd still accept it at this stage in the game."