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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Board Pulls Somis Road Project Measure From Ballot

Transportation: Supervisors rescind the advisory item after discovering that placing it before voters could cost the county up to $93,000.

August 02, 2000|MATT SURMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

County supervisors Tuesday unanimously reversed their decision to put a controversial road project on the November ballot, as Supervisor Judy Mikels apologized for not telling the board how much the countywide advisory vote would cost.

Mikels said her staff members had initially been told the ballot measure on realigning a junction in the Somis area would cost nothing, but after checking with the county clerk's office last week learned it could cost the county as much as $93,000.

Mikels said she and the group of county residents who proposed the measure "choked at the cost," and decided the potential benefits of the measure were not worthwhile.

The plan, which the board passed 3 to 2 last week, would have polled county residents on realigning Donlon Road near the junction of California 118 and 34.

Some Somis residents vigorously opposed the measure, saying it was of little concern to the rest of the county and could potentially overwhelm their opposition.

Supervisors Frank Schillo and John Flynn last week voted against the nonbinding measure, contending that such a countywide vote would be a precedent that could lead to a flood of similar measures petitioned by interest groups.

Flynn, who could not be at Tuesday's meeting, sent a letter with an aide. The letter echoed other supervisors' comments that the county needs to come up with a permanent policy on how it should handle similar petitions from residents seeking advisory measures.

The intersection has been at the center of an ongoing battle between Somis residents and transportation officials.

Caltrans, citing safety and growth concerns, wants to widen the roadway, but residents fear that would only invite more development and ruin the rural character of the Las Posas Valley.

Supporters of the measure say the intersection is unsafe and is a nightmare for commuters who must sometimes wait in backups as long as five miles.

The Somis residents welcomed Tuesday's action but continued to criticize the board for what they said was siding with Caltrans. They worry Caltrans is doing piecemeal construction projects to avoid a comprehensive environmental impact report on the corridor, which stretches from Moorpark to the Port of Hueneme.

The previous decision "was a Pandora's box" that could lead to other ballot measures, resident Patricia Feiner Arkin said. "I thank the board for rescinding [the measure], but please don't scare your constituents like this."

Project opponents questioned the board's leadership for seeking the advisory vote in the first place, and vowed to continue the fight against the Caltrans project.

"We're upset with what's happening with this body," resident Carol Johnson said. "We're watching very carefully."

A Ventura County Transportation Commission study in January found that 73% of county residents and 65% of Somis residents support intersection improvements.

Many Somis residents--who say they want improvements, but not those suggested by Caltrans--dispute the survey findings, saying the questions were vague and contained biased wording.

The measure's backers said they were disappointed but wanted the advisory vote to show that project opponents are in the minority.

"Our point has been made," said former Moorpark Mayor Eloise Brown, who was among several people who collected 400 signatures in hopes of getting the measure on the ballot. The board has "more constituents than just those around this intersection. It does affect all of us."

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