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Relief in Wind for Neighbors of Recycler

Ventura operation announces plan to move to land near a county jail outside Santa Paula.

June 16, 2004|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

Neighbors of a Ventura wood recycling plant may soon be able to breathe easier: The company has announced plans to relocate to a citrus orchard west of Santa Paula.

California Wood Recycling currently chips and grinds wood, grass and other green waste at a six-acre site near the Ventura Auto Mall. The plant has been a source of foul odors for residents who live downwind across the Santa Clara River in Oxnard.

The new deal calls for California Wood to lease five acres from Santa Paula-based Limoneira Co. in the unincorporated county west of the Todd Road Jail, with an option to expand to 20 acres. The move is to occur by the end of September.

"We know we live in an agricultural community and will get certain smells, like fertilizer and such, but Cal Wood was just too much to take," said Roberta Walton, chairwoman of the South Bank Neighborhood Council, which pressured the county to sue the company.

Cal Wood spokeswoman Nan Drake said the new site would be ideal because it's in the middle of a lemon grove and has no neighbors within two miles. The company, which recycled more than 204,000 tons of green waste last year, initially plans to process no more than 200 tons of waste daily, less than the 500 tons allowed at its current site.

The county's lawsuit against California Wood was settled in May 2003 and the company had until May 1 this year to relocate the plant or shut it down. After missing the deadline, the company's attorney returned to court for more time to acquire permits for a site in Camarillo.

On May 14, Superior Court Judge Frederick H. Bysshe ordered California Wood to shut its Ventura operation by Sept. 30 unless it could prove there were no other area recyclers that could handle the waste produced by its customers or unless it could effectively eliminate all odors.

Last Friday, the company announced its partnership with Limoneira. The judge said he would issue his written ruling in the case by 5 p.m. today.

Walter Wall, an attorney representing the county, said he was pleased with the announcement.

"From my perspective, that sounds pretty good," Wall said. "They're moving. That's what these nuisance cases are all about."

Cal Wood notified the Sheriff's Department last week about plans to relocate near the Todd Road Jail and "to assure us that they would be good neighbors," said Undersheriff Craig Husband.

But Santa Paula City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz expressed some concerns about the new site, pointing out that it is nearly four miles west of the city limits

"There may be no problems, but at the same time it raises warning flags for us," he said. "This is a use that people don't want near them any longer, so clearly we're going to need to be vigilant during the county's review process and make sure we're a participant in that."

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