Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mine Owners Seek Expanded Routes, Hours

Despite death, bid to expand mine continues

By Nao Braverman
In mid-January, owners of the Ozena Valley Mine applied for modifications to their Conditional Use Permit to mine sand and gravel in Ozena Valley.
Included in the application is a request to increase the number of truck trips hauling sand and gravel to and from the plant and expand the hours that their gravel hauling trucks are permitted to travel on Highway 33.
With growing concern about the harm that increased truck traffic would cause Ojai Valley air, economy and quality of life, any increased truck activity has been viewed as a threat to the community by a number of concerned citizens.
But local critics of truck traffic have questioned whether the company is in a position to take an action as the documented owner of the mine, Mike Virgilio died unexpectedly Nov. 7.
Ventura County planners are in the very beginning stages of processing Ozena Valley Mine’s application to modify their CUP, according to Planner Pat Richards.
They have yet to complete the required environmental Impact Report for the permit modification, he said.
Generally, a change of ownership occurs when property is sold, explained Richards. In such cases new owners would provide a statement in writing provide a statement in writing that identifies the new owner and states that they will abide by the permits and conditions given to the previous owner.
“But this is a unique case,” he said. “Rarely do we have an owner who passes away in the middle of the application process.”
Richards said that the Planning Division had asked the mine property representatives to provide documentation of who the department should be communicating with from a legal standpoint.
“I am waiting for their reply,” he said. But, in the meantime, the department will not halt the application process.
Howard Smith, active member of the Committee to Stop the Trucks! believes that planning officials should be more prudent.
“We are of the position that if they have no proof that the people they are talking to are registered owners of the property,” he said, “they could be perceived at least as being fiscally irresponsible if they move forward with anything.”
Ross Atkinson, a local estate planning attorney, said that if a property is vested in the sole name of a person who has died, and not a corporate entity, then no one has the authority to take any actions concerning the property until there is a legal personal representative. But in the case that there is a living spouse, or that the company is legally documented as being family owned, or owned by a corporation, the proceedings which transfer ownership are often shorter, he said.
Kate Neiswender, the attorney representing the Virgilios, said that Mike Virgilio’s wife, Ann Virgilio, was indeed still alive.
“The company might have been under Mike Virgilio’s name but it has always been owned by the family,” said Neiswender. “The Planning Department was very kind about the fact that Mike died unexpectedly and said the family could take their time to get back to them with the title of ownership, but that there was no hurry.”
In the meantime planners are moving forward with an Environmental Impact Report.
Smith said that the Committee to Stop the Trucks believes that the Ozena Valley Mine has repeatedly been in violation of their permit requirements, particularly with regard to the hours their trucks are permitted to drive on Highway 33. The Planning Department has not thoroughly investigated the alleged violations and will not confirm them.
“I am really appalled that people are making an issue out of this. The family is still mourning their loss.” said Neiswender.
The mine’s operating family would not comment but deferred to their attorney.


Anonymous said...

I think this article could have stated what hours the trucks are now allowed to use the 33, and what they want the expanded hours to be. I get stuck behind those trucks quite often on my commute, and it's like being in a parade.

Anonymous said...

Stop The Trucks Resource Page
can be found at Ojai Post.com

Anonymous said...

Just take a few minutes of your time and you will find exactly what you are looking for about Estate Planning.