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Referendum on Project Clears Hurdle

November 18, 1998|ANDY SAMUELSON

A ruling by a Ventura County Superior Court judge could clear the way for a referendum on the Hidden Creek Ranch development.

Superior Court Judge Thomas J. Hutchins tentatively ruled Tuesday that a January referendum in the 3,221-unit project near Moorpark does not violate state land-use laws, as a lawsuit brought by Costa Mesa-based Messenger Investment Co. had alleged.

Unless Hutchins reverses his decision, the referendum will appear before Moorpark voters on Jan. 12, along with the growth-control Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources initiative.

While the ruling allows for the referendum, it also opens the door to more litigation.

Glen Reiser, an attorney representing Messenger, said he would file an appeal next week. Reiser expects the state Court of Appeal to make a decision sometime next summer.

"I don't like the idea of having to litigate on something like this, but that is the course both sides have decided to take," said City Councilman Chris Evans, who voted for the development in August.

"It's unfortunate because, as I've said before, the taxpayer will be stuck paying the bill."

After more than nine years of negotiations, the council in August approved the Hidden Creek Ranch development on 4,300 acres near Moorpark College.

After that, opponents gathered enough signatures to qualify the issue for a vote.

If the opponents prevail in the January election, the City Council could not reconsider the development for a year.

Reiser filed the lawsuit against the referendum on Oct. 13.

He argued that it would create inconsistencies in the city's General Plan, did not contain the exact language of the council's Hidden Creek Ranch development agreement, and did not inform signers that other land use actions regarding the development would be repealed.

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