When Government says they’re doing it for the ‘Greater Good’ – Watch Out | Wildlife Project is a Theft of Property Rights

Guest Column by Debra Tash 

January 22, 2019

The Planning Commission’s public hearing will be on January 31st , 8:30 AM at the County Government Center, 800 So Victoria Ave. Ventura.  

In the Moorpark Acorn, January 11th 2019 edition,  Hector Gonzalez wrote a piece with a headline that veered close to a Marxist mantra, Finding the Line Between Public Good, Private Property.  In it there were four interviewees, the planner Kim Uhlich, who is in charge of Ventura County’s Proposed Habitat Connectivity and Wildlife Corridor Ordinance, a property owner, Rick Brecunier, who will be affected by these new regulations, Lynn Jensen who heads CoLab Ventura County and Supervisor Linda Parks, the elected official pushing for more restrictions.  The Ordinance, which will tie up large swaths of private property in the unincorporated area of Ventura County, is Parks’ legacy project.  

2008 missing linkages map

The foundation of Planning’s regulatory onslaught comes from the South Coast Missing Linkages project.  This study was completed in 2008 and covered the entire south coast region of California, including Ventura County.  It was compiled from reviews of aerial views and other studies. Very little field work was done, i.e. no one came out to see if the animals were actually using/living/existing/ on what they highlighted as corridors.

Planning has now taken this study and built upon it to brew up a regulatory prison for large sections of the unincorporated county.  In Mr. Gonzalez’s article, Kim Uhlich, again the lead planner on the project, was quoted as saying that property owners could still run cattle.  Not everyone who farms in Ventura County owns a cow, but there will be additional permitting requirements to build homes, clear land around water features, certain plantings, building structures such as barns, fencing (watertight fences even in flood zones) and lighting. In the words, they will regulate the value right out of affected private property.

Let’s look at Mr. Rick Brecunier’s land. Brecunier was quoted in the Acorn article as saying, “What could be more unfair than just a few landowners being subjected to the regulation of the public good? Will the public be compensating landowners for the value they provide to wildlife?”  The answer unfortunately is, no. His land, which is a generational farm that has been in the family since the turn of the 19th century, is in the heart of Subarea F pictured below in the county graphic. This area is already in a greenbelt between Moorpark, Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley which prohibits any dense development.  It is zoned Open Space 10, meaning the land can be subdivided down to ten acre parcels.  If property owners like Mr. Brecunier in the Tierra Rejada Valley are further burdened with additional land use restrictions it would most certainly devalue this farm along with others.  Sections of the land in the valley could not be used for a new home, a barn, or even for additional lighting. The Brecunier’s run Walnut Groves, a charming wedding venue that has operated well over 20 years in the valley.  They have recently re-upped their permit. However, with the passage of the new ordinance there will many more hoops for them to jump through if they want to subdivide and build on their land.

Ventura County Planning, Tierra Rejada Valley

This cache of regulations seemed to have been crafted with little input from property owners.  Please keep in mind, when the county cites “stakeholders” as having given input to a project, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people with skin the game, i.e. land holders, have been consulted. Oft times NGO’s (Non Governmental Organizations) are invited to the table.  These come primarily from the environmental community and those who recreate in open space.  Now they want more of what isn’t theirs and with a record of not managing well what is already under governmental control. 

Lynn Jensen was cited in the Acorn article on the increased fire hazard caused by an almost blind unwillingness to properly steward public open space. “The Thomas fire’s destruction might have been less, or avoided entirely, if the county had removed old brush in the Ventura fuel bed through regular prescribed burns, as the 2009 fire plan recommended, Jensen said.” 

It can’t be denied that environmentalists have hampered proper management of public lands.  The voracity of the recent wildfires that have hit our county is proof enough.  Yet what Jensen, along with the article’s author, neglect to note is how much land is already in the public trust- over 50% of California.  Our county is flanked by the Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy and Los Padres Forest, along with a myriad of local parks and public open space.

Property owners in the unincorporated area of Ventura County are already under SOAR and a whole array of restrictions as it is.  This is where they are drawing the line and saying enough already. They intend to fight back.   It was mentioned in the Acorn article that there is a legal fund being raised by CoLab.  This is from their website’s landing page:  Click Here to Contribute to our Wildlife Corridor Legal Fund

Everyone enjoys open space and the green fields of farmland.  It’s tough enough to make a living with agriculture and now the County is poised to make it even tougher.  Yes, they should be advised, a firm line is being drawn in the sand.

The Planning Commission’s public hearing will be on January 31st , 8:30 AM at the County Government Center, 800 So Victoria Ave. Ventura.  

Aerial view of coastal farm fields and orchards near Camarillo in Ventura County, California. Dreamstime

Debra Tash is Editor-in-Chief of Citizensjournal.us, past president for Citizens' Alliance for Property Rights Ventura Chapter, business executive and award-winning author, residing in Somis.  To see more of her publication: http://citizensjournal.us/sign-up-for-twice-weekly-headlines-in-you-inbox/

January 23, 2019