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Ventura County

School's Injunction Bid Denied

Ventura Christian High had sought temporary waiver of land-use laws while lawsuit is pending.

November 26, 2002|Amanda Covarrubias | Times Staff Writer

A federal judge ruled Monday that a struggling Christian school in Ventura would have to follow city land-use rules, regardless of its religious affiliation.

The tentative ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Christina A. Snyder in Los Angeles will not force Ventura County Christian High School to close, said parent Bill Bays, a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the city.

The private school alleges that city officials are deliberately driving it toward bankruptcy with seldom-enforced land-use laws. It contends the city arbitrarily demanded that the school obtain permits for portable classrooms on the campus.

Snyder's ruling Monday was in response to a request by the school for an injunction that would temporarily waive the land-use laws and allow the school to use the portable classrooms. Meantime, the school's 54 students are taking classes in a building across the street from the midtown campus. The lawsuit has yet to be resolved.

"This was a setback," Bays said. "I'm disappointed, but we will prevail."

School attorney Nicholas P. Miller did not return phone calls.

City Atty. Robert Boehm said the city was seeking fair treatment for all parties, including neighbors who had complained that the school's five portable classrooms were set too close to their backyards.

"We've always contended that the church was factually wrong in regards to its assertions that they're being treated differently than anyone else," Boehm said. "Basically, the judge is saying ... they haven't pursued all the administrative remedies."

At least one of those remedies would be acquiring a city permit to use the portables.

But to get the permit, the school would have to pay $40,000 in traffic mitigation fees and at least $20,000 to move the portables to another spot on the campus, money that school officials say they do not have.

Instead, they filed the lawsuit, contending that some city employees had an anti-Christian bias, that city demands had caused a sharp drop in enrollment and that the private school was not answerable to the city but to the landlord, Ventura Unified School District, which leased the property to the school three years ago for $1 a year.

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