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Exemption or Return of Fees Sought : Developer Sues Moorpark Over Growth Rule

January 29, 1988|SAM ENRIQUEZ | Times Staff Writer

Moorpark's largest home builder sued the city Thursday, seeking either exemption from a growth-control ordinance or the return of $17 million paid in fees and land donations for an unfinished tract.

Officials of Urban West Communities, a Santa Monica-based development firm, said at a press conference that completion of the company's 2,500-home Mountain Meadows housing project is being jeopardized by the city's newly implemented growth-control ordinance. That measure, approved by voters in November, 1986, limits building permits to 250 annually.

Delays caused by the growth-control measure, which requires all builders to compete for the limited number of building permits, will cause financial hardship for the firm, company vice president Thomas A. Zanic said.

In one lawsuit the firm, which still needs 1,000 building permits to complete the tract, argues that the growth-control measure does not apply to the Mountain Meadows development because the 850-acre project was approved by city and county officials before the ordinance was adopted, Zanic said.

Could Delay Project

Urban West officials said the project was originally approved for completion by 1991, but Moorpark's growth-control ordinance could delay the project several years.

"It makes no sense to stop the project in midstream and make it stand in line with all new projects," said Michael M. Berger, an attorney representing Urban West.

If Moorpark officials cannot be forced by the courts to exempt Urban West from the growth-control ordinance, the firm then will seek a $17-million payment from the city to compensate it for the fees and public improvements required for the project, according to the suit. Those improvements, part of $28 million in public improvements required for approval of the development, include the donation of land for public parks, schools and roads.

A second lawsuit filed by the company calls for the repeal of the growth-control ordinance on the ground that it is unconstitutional, Berger said. The measure violates the constitutional protection against the taking of private property without just compensation, he said.

Moorpark Mayor John Galloway said the lawsuits are based on the "insatiable greed" of developers and pose a threat to the city's financial stability. Galloway said the city's growth-control measure could delay, but does not prevent, completion of the Mountain Meadows development.

"Urban West never had a guaranteed time frame to complete their project," Galloway said.

The company is willing to drop both lawsuits if the city agrees to grant Urban West 1,000 building permits by 1991, Zanic said.

Moorpark's growth-control ordinance was passed amid fears of residents that unchecked development was creating traffic and congestion problems in the eastern Ventura County city.

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