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Ventura County

Assembly Passes County Land Bill

April 12, 2002|CATHERINE SAILLANT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

State legislation allowing Ventura County voters to decide whether to create an open-space district is on its way to Gov. Gray Davis' desk.

The Assembly on Wednesday passed AB 1145, sponsored by Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), on a vote of 65 to 5. Passed by the Senate earlier this week, the bill is expected to be signed by Davis in the next few days.

Ventura County supervisors support the bill, which enables them to place measures creating an open-space district and its funding mechanism on the same ballot. Current law requires those decisions be made in separate elections.

"I'm confident the governor will sign. It has broad bipartisan support and it follows a tradition taken by other counties," Jackson said. "We are the 10th county that has chosen to pursue an open-space district."

The district would buy crop land and other undeveloped swaths in Ventura County for permanent conservation. But voters must agree to tax themselves to pay for the purchases.

A 41-member advisory committee began meeting Wednesday to hash out what type of tax should be presented to voters. It will also make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors next year on how the district should be governed, and what properties should be targeted for purchase.

Officials hope to place the measure on the March 2004 ballot.

"I'm pleased it's moving forward and I look forward to the governor signing it," said Thousand Oaks-based Supervisor Frank Schillo, an early supporter of the district.

Supervisor Steve Bennett said an open-space district is needed to make sure Ventura County does not lose its semi-rural feel. "It's Step 2 in the overall game plan of trying to make Ventura County different from other counties in Southern California." Bennett said. "It's a county that has been able to effectively keep greenbelt buffers between the cities and this would ensure that continues."

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