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Hidden Creek Ruling Possible Today

November 17, 1998|ANDY SAMUELSON

A Superior Court judge could decide today whether voters will get a chance to decide the fate of the proposed Hidden Creek Ranch development north of town.

Judge Thomas J. Hutchins is expected to rule on whether residents can vote on the 3,221-unit development, which would be located on more than 4,300 acres, during a special election Jan. 12.

An attorney for the developer, Messenger Investment Co., has said a referendum to stop the Hidden Creek project is invalid and should be removed from the ballot because, if passed, it would create inconsistencies in the city's General Plan--which he says would be a violation of state law.

But in the past, Richard Francis, an Oxnard lawyer and a spokesman for the movement behind the referendum, has argued that allowing voters to amend the General Plan is legal.

Francis, who could not be reached for further comment Monday, led the countywide Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources (SOAR) initiative. Francis also helped write the SOAR initiative, which will also appear on the Jan. 12 ballot.

Glen Reiser, an attorney representing Costa Mesa-based Messenger Investment, said the referendum is faulty because its authors did not use the same language in the petition passed around to voters that the city used in its ordinance approving the development.

"We are confident," Reiser said. "When you engage in a referendum, you have to play by the rules."

Reiser also said leaders of the referendum committee misled petition signers by not fully explaining the referendum's ramifications.

The court hearing is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. in the East County Courthouse in Simi Valley.

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