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Landfill Supporters to Fight Judge's Ruling : Weldon Canyon: Those behind dump will appeal decision to take question off November ballot. They say reasons given by judge were not specific enough.

August 30, 1994|PHYLLIS W. JORDAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Supporters of a Weldon Canyon landfill initiative expect to file an appeal later this week aimed at overturning a judge's ruling that struck the controversial measure from the ballot.

"We believe that the judge erred," said Wes Peltzer, an attorney fighting to keep the initiative on the November ballot. "We'll be appealing it."

The key problem, Peltzer said, is that retired Appeals Judge Richard W. Abbe gave few specifics last week for invalidating the measure before it reached Ventura County voters.

In a ruling Wednesday, Abbe wrote simply that the initiative "is not a proper subject for the ballot because it is beyond the power of the votes, procedurally defective and clearly invalid without a doubt and as a matter of law."

Other than that statement, Abbe's two-page writ of mandate did not address the complex legal arguments that attorneys presented in voluminous legal briefs and a daylong hearing.

But in a telephone interview, Abbe called the measure an "egregious attempt" to grab power from public officials for private gain.

"It was an attempt to award land-use rights to a private company," he said. The initiative, which received support from 32,000 county residents in a spring petition drive, essentially granted land-use and zoning rights to a San Diego County partnership.

That partnership, Taconic Resources, would then have to get all the necessary state and federal permits before developing a landfill.

The cities of Ojai and Ventura, which lie closest to Weldon Canyon, filed suit in July to block the measure from reaching voters. They argued that a private firm could not use the initiative process to win development rights.

They also argued that the measure went beyond legislation and extended into areas where the county government should exercise judgment.

Abbe said in the telephone interview that he agreed with both points.

Abbe, who is retired in Santa Barbara, took on the sensitive case after five Ventura County judges were disqualified or removed themselves from the case. He faced charges of bias, as well, but survived landfill supporters' attempts to block him from deciding the matter.

Landfill opponents said they were not surprised to learn that supporters would appeal the judge's ruling.

"I don't think they'll make any headway," said Bill Moritz, assistant county counsel who joined the case against the ballot measure. "I think Justice Abbe is a good judge. I think he's got plenty of law to support him."

Moritz and other attorneys urged the judge to make a ruling quickly enough that both sides would have time to appeal the case before the ballots are printed in late September. Peltzer said he was hopeful that the 2nd District Court of Appeal could hear the case in time.

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