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Ventura County Focus | THOUSAND OAKS

Councilwoman Seeks to Lower Appeal Fees

January 11, 1998|KATE FOLMAR

They can range from a few dollars to a significant chunk of your savings. And Thousand Oaks City Councilwoman Linda Parks wants to change them.

They are the fees charged those appealing the city's development decisions, and they vary widely--depending, for instance, on whether a person is opposed to a massive development or a neighbor's permit to own a farm animal.

In Thousand Oaks, appeal fees are tied to application fees: Contesting a decision made by the Planning Commission or city staff members costs half as much as the request for approval does.

That means you pay $9 if you want to contest your neighbor's $18 permit to operate a home-based business. Or $2,500 to contest a Planning Commission development permit for a 5-acre project.

Parks says she would like to see all that change. On Tuesday, she will ask her colleagues to review the schedule of appeal fees, with an eye on lowering them.

"It is so expensive to file an appeal that it's prohibitive," she said. "The importance of appeals is crucial in getting better projects, having time to reevaluate decisions and allowing public scrutiny."

Parks said she was interested in filing an appeal of an office park with two restaurants on Thousand Oaks Boulevard, which was approved by city staff members, not the Planning Commission. It would have cost her $1,500.

"I don't have that kind of money," said the stay-at-home mother of four.

Not only are Thousand Oaks' fees higher than elsewhere in the county and state, she said, but the fees are not automatically refunded if appellants win their cases.

Parks' colleagues said they were also interested in looking at the fee schedule, but were wary of slashing the charges too drastically.

"If you appeal and win, you should get your money back," said Councilman Andy Fox. "But I certainly wouldn't want a developer to file an appeal to draw things out for free."

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