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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS | ELECTIONS

4 of 7 in Fillmore Council Race Oppose Growth Control

November 01, 2000|GAIL DAVIS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

FILLMORE — When voters here mark their choices for two controversial growth-control measures Tuesday, they will not only decide how they want their city to grow, but, by extension, how much power they want their City Council to have.

Measure J proposes drawing a tighter line around the 2.3-square-mile town than the City Council-sponsored Measure K. Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources, which successfully sponsored the countywide SOAR measure that voters approved in 1998, is pushing Measure J.

Both, however, would require a majority approval by voters for any changes, effectively bypassing the city's elected representatives on growth issues. If neither measure passes, the city's development process stays as it is, with annexations being decided by the county's Local Agency Formation Commission, and projects approved by the Planning Commission and City Council.

Four of the seven candidates running for City Council--Ken Smedley, Cecelia Corl Uber, Arthur Brown and Albert Arroyo--oppose both measures, saying the council should do what it was elected to do.

Brown says no developers will come to Fillmore if they have to pay the cost of an election; Smedley says he doesn't believe in determining land-use issues through the ballot box; Uber and Arroyo say the current process should stand.

"Fillmore simply needs a City Council that will listen to them and do what the majority of people wants," Arroyo said.

But Mayor Evaristo Barajas, the only incumbent running for one of the three seats, and candidate Cecilia Cuevas both support Measure K, saying it would allow for slow, well-planned growth and keeps the spirit of a vision for the city's plan for the next 20 years.

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Patti Walker is the sole candidate who favors Measure J, saying Fillmore's residents should have the power to decide land-use matters, and that property outside Measure J's proposed limit line, which the other candidates consider restrictive, is viable agricultural land that should fall under SOAR laws.

"The farmer has a right to farm and that right cannot be ignored," she said.

All the candidates want to draw more businesses to Fillmore.

Smedley said that can happen by building high-income housing to attract high-tech entrepreneurs. Then the city should try to attract businesses that could cater to the high-tech crowd. With the revenue that would generate, the city could improve older parts of town, Smedley said.

Cuevas also said the town should encourage developers to build homes for high-income families to draw families with high discretionary incomes.

"We can achieve a more balanced economy here if we did that," she said.

Besides attracting light industry and small businesses, Barajas said, the city should expand tourism. Already, Fillmore has the Fillmore & Western Railway Co., which he said brought an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 people to town last year.

But growth brings traffic, a problem this city knows all too well, with big rigs barreling through its main thoroughfare day and night, and the added burden of trucks from at least five gravel quarries in Grimes Canyon heading onto California 126.

All seven candidates said the gravel trucks should be dealt with now before traffic gets worse. All want the county to take some of the pressure off Fillmore by routing some trucks through Moorpark or west to Santa Paula along South Mountain Road.

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Barajas said the truck companies should pay for at least two crossing guards at the intersection of A Street and California 126, where the gravel trucks turn onto the highway. Scores of schoolchildren cross the intersection daily, and Barajas wants the guards in place soon. "We're not going to wait until a kid gets run over," he said.

The trucks also are not compatible with Fillmore's agriculture, he said, and the county should study the cumulative effect of the traffic on the city.

In August, the city appealed a county decision to allow one mining company, Best Rock Products, to expand its operations, In the appeal, the city asked that the county calculate the total truck count and analyze its effect on the city.

Walker and Smedley both say Fillmore residents don't get enough information from City Hall, and that if they are elected, each plans to create fliers that would be sent out at least quarterly to every household.

"My idea is to come up with a newsletter format that can go out with the water bill," Smedley said. "It's the one piece of mail each person gets every month from the city."

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