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PROJECT OPPONENTS SEEK PUBLIC VOTE.

Byline: Sylvia L. Oliande Daily News Staff Writer

Moorpark SOAR activists have submitted 2,441 signatures on petitions to fight a recently approved Hidden Creek Ranch development, beating a Friday deadline and expressing confidence of getting a referendum before voters next year.

The signatures will be reviewed by the Moorpark city clerk and the Ventura County registrar of voters. If there are enough valid signatures, the Moorpark City Council then must schedule a special election.

``Given the council's approval of the project, and given their past behavior with the SOAR signatures, our concern is, What will they do next,'' said Lori Rutter, coordinator of the signature campaign. ``How will they move forward on this?''

Earlier this summer, the Moorpark group within the countywide Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources movement sent a petition to the council to qualify a preservation initiative for the November ballot.

The council placed it on the ballot knowing it likely would be challenged in court by opponents who questioned the petition's wording. A judge eventually removed it from the ballot.

The SOAR group then submitted a second initiative for which the council must schedule an election later this year or in early next '99.

``Our hope is that the (Moorpark) SOAR initiative and the (Hidden Creek Ranch) referendum can go on the same ballot,'' said Clint Harper, an organizer of the effort.

Gary Austin, vice president of Messenger Investment Co., the project's developer, said the SOAR group has a long way to go before the referendum is put on a ballot and becomes a threat to the development. He said the company will review the referendum carefully to determine if they will file a legal challenge to the effort.

``We'll take a real hard look at it and I wouldn't be surprised to see something in court to decide whether the referendum was well-prepared or not,'' said Austin.

Mindful that the original Moorpark SOAR initiative was successfully challenged by opponents in court this summer, open-space activists said they took great pains to be sure the petitions were legal in every way.

``We were very careful to be sure all that documentation is accurate,'' said Harper. ``We are confident there is no way to challenge this.''

SOAR organizers said asking Moorpark voters to sign petitions was more difficult for the referendum than the preservation initiative.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 17, 1998
Words:389
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