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Plant Told It Faces Closure Over Odors

Siding with Oxnard residents, court orders recycler to develop a less offensive operation.

May 15, 2004|Holly J. Wolcott | Times Staff Writer

To the delight of residents living downwind, Ventura-based California Wood Recycling was ordered Friday to find a less smelly way to process green waste or face closure at the end of September.

A court hearing will be held June 14, when the company must present its new processing plan or face having its green waste operations given to another company, according to a ruling by Ventura County Superior Court Judge Frederick Bysshe.

"The county's position was to put the feet of Cal Wood to the fire," Robert Kwong, assistant county counsel, said late Friday.

For years, residents who live in Oxnard across the Santa Clara River from the plant have complained about the smell. Concerns of the South Bank Neighborhood Council prompted the county to sue California Wood in 2000.

"In balancing all of the factors, the court has come to the conclusion that unless there are absolutely no other alternatives, the Southbank residents have 'sacrificed' long enough," Bysshe wrote. California Wood's attorney couldn't be reached for comment.

The county in May 2003 settled the lawsuit with the company, which agreed to relocate its operation by this month. The case, however, returned to court so the company's attorneys could argue for more time to complete the permitting process for a proposed site in Camarillo.

During a hearing Monday, Bysshe appeared to be leaning toward the extension, saying he realized the county's permitting process could be lengthy and that the company should not necessarily be punished for that process.

"This is not an easy decision," Bysshe said after hearing arguments Monday and taking the matter under advisement. "The court can't ride roughshod over other branches of government."

During the hearing, several residents told the judge that while the stench had lessened, there were still many days when their windows and doors had to remain closed.

On Friday, Roberta Walton, the Neighborhood Council's chairwoman, said residents have waited a long time for relief and believed they would have it when they no longer smelled foul odors. "If they [California Wood] shut down, that's good news," Walton said. "We'll wait and see."

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