It's not just about outdoor events

County staff want to remove public health and safety from permitting ordinance language.

What do outdoor events and oil & gas projects have in common?

We don't see a connection, but county staff are seeking changes to improve how outdoor events are permitted. That sounds grand. But those changes effectively remove public health and safety from the consideration of oil and gas projects also. That is bad governance, we think the county can do better. 

Tomorrow (3:30 time scheduled) the VC Board of Supervisors (BOS) will consider and vote on some changes to the Non-Coastal Zoning Ordinance (NCZO) –the laws governing land use in the county.

The proposed changes, if approved, diminish the county’s ability to consider public health and safety in reviewing land use projects. Just last month, the county received an application from an oil field waste disposal company, which was told in 2015 their current permit would not be renewed because, in the interest of public health and safety, oil field waste injection was not compatible with agriculture land uses.

Anterra.jpggoogle earth image, 2013, Anterra Facility, surrounded by strawberry fields, Wooley Road, Oxnard. 

The public is being told the proposed NCZOs change apply to outdoor events, but buried in the agenda item, and in the proposal are changes that narrow the county’s ability to consider public health and safety when reviewing any and all discretionary projects – including oil and gas extraction and waste disposal projects.

CFROG understands the proposed changes are in response to a lawsuit the county lost regarding outdoor events, but county staff is suggesting changes that move beyond outdoor events. 

Anterra Energy has applied for a 30-year extension to their existing permit that allows oil field waste injection at a site on Wooley Road. Anterra provides oil field waste disposal to oil companies throughout southern California who do not have their own waste disposal wells. LINK to CFROG blog post about anterra’s app.

The proposed changes were first heard and approved, in a 5-0 vote by the VC Planning Commission on June 20, 2018.

Here is an excerpt from that letter:

Section 8111-4.2 also calls out what parameters will be considered when the decision making authority is conditioning the project:

“The authority may impose such conditions and limitations as it deems necessary to assure that all applicable policies and specific requirements as well as the general purpose and intent of this Chapter and its various articles will be carried out, and that the public interest, health, safety, convenience and welfare will be served...”

Staff is proposing to add “reasonable” before “conditions” and strike the following language from the ordinance: “...that the public interest, health, safety, convenience and welfare will be served...”

Without a clear definition provided for the term “reasonable” CFROG objects to the term being added. Vague adjectives serve neither the public nor the applicant.

The striking of the terms “public health” and “safety” from the section would effectively restrict the ability of the county to execute their oversight role and duty within the discretionary permit process.

CFROG proposes the following language for section 8111-4.2:

The decision making authority, hearing a discretionary matter may approve, deny or modify, wholly or partly, the request being reviewed. The authority may impose such conditions necessary to ensure that the public interest and welfare will be served, public health and safety will be protected and that the project satisfies the applicable standards of approval. In the absence of any provision to the contrary in a decision granting a request, said request is granted as set forth in the application. All conditions and restrictions applied to a decision on an application request not appealed shall automatically continue to govern and limit the subject use or structure unless the action of the decision-making authority clearly indicates otherwise.

(Note: language in bold above is the only portion not recommended by staff.)

Here LINK is CFROG’s complete letter that was submitted to the commission.

 

In our letter submitted today July 16, 2018 LINK, for the BOS hearing, CFROG points out:

Removal of that language would serve to narrow the discretion of the Board when reviewing all discretionary projects and would make it harder to ensure community concerns, such as public health and safety and environmental protection are the priority when considering whether a project, other than an outdoor event, may have a significant health impact on nearby communities.

The proposed changes are in direct contrast to the intent and duty of the NCZO, the entire purpose of which is "to protect and promote the public health, safety and general welfare" and "to provide environmental" and other "advantages" to the people of the county. (NCZO s. 8101-1, below.)  

Sec. 8101-1 - Purpose of Chapter The text (including tables and matrices) and references to the Official Zoning Data contained in this Chapter constitute the comprehensive zoning regulations for the unincorporated area of the County of Ventura, excluding the Coastal Zone, and are adopted to protect and promote the public health, safety and general welfare; to provide the environmental, economic and social advantages which result from an orderly, planned use of resources; to establish the most beneficial and convenient relationships among land uses and to implement Ventura County's General Plan. 

For this agenda item, CFROG asks for a motion and vote that will:

  1. Ensure any changes approved apply only to permitting for outdoor events, or
  2. Incorporate the requested changes in CFROG’s letter of June 20, 2018 and not remove “public interest, health, safety, convenience and welfare” from these sections of the NCZO.

 

Action Items:

  1. send a comment to clerkoftheboard@ventura.org Re: Agenda Item #51 asking the Board to not make global changes to all discretionary permits and limit any changes to outdoor events only. 
  2. Attend the hearing: 3:30 July 17, 2018, Board hearing room at VC Government Center, Hall of Admin 800 S. Victoria Avenue.

 

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  • Kris Young
    CFROG’s comments are thorough and thoughtful and certainly needed to protect the public.