A Ventura County planning agency might break the law if it gives preliminary approval to Simi Valley to annex Bob Hope's Jordan Ranch without reviewing an extensive environmental study first, Ventura County Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury said Tuesday.
Several state court cases dictate that cities must complete an environmental impact report before area commissions can act on annexation requests, Bradbury said. He is investigating whether a tentative ruling would be legal.
The Local Agency Formation Commission is scheduled to discuss the annexation at its Sept. 12 meeting.
Shannon Trower, an assistant Ventura County counsel and legal adviser to LAFCO, said he also questions the legality of a tentative ruling.
"There is a good possibility they are not going to be able to vote on the request without an environmental impact report," Trower said.
Hope has offered 5,700 acres of parkland in exchange for an access road to a planned subdivision. He asked Simi Valley officials to annex his ranch because the Ventura County Board of Supervisors has indicated that it would not approve the project, which is now under its jurisdiction. Simi Valley Mayor Greg Stratton said the city is prepared to conduct the necessary environmental studies before annexing the property.
"We expect that they would require some kind of study," Stratton said.
But Ventura County Supervisor John K. Flynn, a member of LAFCO, said if the city is forced to study the issue first, it would defeat the purpose of requesting the preliminary ruling.
Simi Valley officials voted July 30 to ask LAFCO to make an early determination on whether the area could be annexed so the city would not waste money on a study if there is no chance of LAFCO approval.
Even if LAFCO were to grant preliminary approval, the agency would still be required to take a final vote on the request after lengthy city review.
Hope has proposed building a 750-house subdivision. Spokesmen for Hope have said his offer to turn over 5,700 acres of parkland to the National Park Service, in exchange for an access road to Jordan Ranch and $10 million, hinges on government approval of the subdivision.
Hope has asked Simi Valley to annex not only Jordan Ranch south of the city but 3,945 acres of Runkle Ranch to the northeast.
Although city officials declined to disclose whether they will eventually support or oppose annexation of the land, they have agreed to consider the proposal. Some officials are concerned that if they are unable to annex the Hope properties, Blind Canyon, part of Runkle Ranch, will be sold to the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts and be turned into a landfill.