Thursday, March 27, 2008

Gravel Truck Owners Suing County

Lawsuit alleges restrictions on truck traffic exceed authority

By Nao Braverman

Local critics of truck traffic have questioned the legality of nearby mining operations. But now it’s turnabout time.
Nearby mine owners are questioning the legality of the demands of their regulators.
Owners of the Ozena Valley Sand and Gravel Mine and the Virgilio Family Trust filed a lawsuit against Ventura County last week, for allegedly changing the scope of their permitted operations without prior notice, hearing or environmental review, according to the lawsuit.
They are also filing charges against the county for restricting the use of State Highway 33, which is allegedly in excess of the authority granted to the county, according to the legal petition.
But the county’s position is that they have not done anything wrong, said District 1 Supervisor Steve Bennett.
Since 2001, the Ozena Valley Mine’s conditional use permit allows project-related trucks to travel on Highway 33 through the Ojai Valley, Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
According to the lawsuit, the owners believed that vehicles traveling to and from the mine were restricted from traveling during peak traffic hours, between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. and 3 p.m and and 6 p.m during weekdays, but that they were able to travel at other times.
But a new letter in 2007 clarified that their mine operation could only send truck traffic between 6 a.m and 7 a.m and 9 a.m. and 3 p.m on weekdays only, and not at other times.
The plaintiffs believe this to be a reinterpretation of their permit requirements, by which they have been operating their business for seven years according to the lawsuit.
But Bennett said that the conditions have not been changed since they were approved by the Ventura County Planning Commission.
“No complaint came in during the five years of trucking operations so the issue never arose,” he said. “But when the complaints began come in about a year ago, the applicants began to dispute that the complaints accurately stated what their conditional use permit says.”
The county maintains that the conditions stated on the mining company’s permit, are clear and unambiguous, and that there is room for dispute as to what the condition is, according to Bennett.
Members of the Committee to Stop the Trucks believe that many mine operators do not know their own schedule, said member Howard Smith.
Bennett explained that the misunderstanding, from the county’s position, stems from the fact that the regulations were not enforced, because there were no complaints from citizens, not because the regulations were ambiguous.
Mine operators at Ozena Valley Sand and Gravel Mine could not be reached for comment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

(Big) sigh...I sense a long
and protracted battle of attrition
looming on the horizon over this. Friends, coutrymen, mount up your steeds. Bring back the warmth the coutryside needs...