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Ventura County

Open-Space Measure Clears Assembly

Legislation: The bill, if approved by the state Senate and governor, would allow a Ventura County vote on a tax to buy undeveloped land.


A measure that would allow Ventura County voters to create an open-space district cleared the state Assembly on Tuesday on a 66-8 vote.

If approved by the state Senate and Gov. Gray Davis, the bill by Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) would give county residents the option of taxing themselves to buy undeveloped land for permanent preservation.

The Board of Supervisors would write the ballot initiative, which probably would appear on the March 2004 ballot.

County interest in creating an open-space district has been high since 1998, when 68% of voters indicated they supported the concept.

Less clear is whether a majority of voters are willing to pay for it through a sales tax increase or property tax assessment.

Such a program is meant as a long-term successor to the county's SOAR anti-sprawl policies, which begin to expire in 2020.

Under the law, the Legislature must sign off on county ballot measures that would impose a tax. Jackson last year agreed to carry the enabling legislation, then withdrew it after Supervisor Judy Mikels surprised her by lodging opposition at the state level.

Later, Mikels, who is facing a challenge in the March 5 primary election, reversed course. Three weeks ago, she joined her colleagues in voting to back the measure.

"When the Board of Supervisors came on board unanimously, that sure helped us," Jackson said. "Ultimately, I think everybody came together to do what's best for the community."

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