Council approves Brine Water Softener buyback
Following a half-hour executive session at Tuesday’s regular council meeting, Fillmore City Counsel Ted Schneider, far right, announced the city has purchased a half-acre parcel east of B Street, from the Fillmore-Piru and Saticoy Citrus Assn. for use of the water recycling Project. The land is located north of the railroad tracks. The price was $113,335.
Following a half-hour executive session at Tuesday’s regular council meeting, Fillmore City Counsel Ted Schneider, far right, announced the city has purchased a half-acre parcel east of B Street, from the Fillmore-Piru and Saticoy Citrus Assn. for use of the water recycling Project. The land is located north of the railroad tracks. The price was $113,335.

Fillmore City Council held its regular monthly meeting August 26, 2008, at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. The North Fillmore Initiative Report was presented. The Council approved a Water Softener Buyback program. The Council presented the Soroptimist Club with a proclamation recognizing the World Day of Peace. The formation of Community Facilities District #8 to manage the Fillmore Business Park was postponed, and some city development fees were slightly increased.

The Council approved a Brine Discharging Water Softener Buyback Program. The City will buy back softeners for $500-$750 each until the allotted $50,000 runs out. Right now, only 50 brine discharging water softeners have legal permits in Fillmore. There are an estimated 385 illegal softeners in Fillmore. The penalty for having an illegal softener is a $1000 fine and up to 30 days in prison. The Council voted to grant amnesty to anyone who voluntarily gives up their illegal softener. If the softener owner wants the City to uninstall the softener, a $50 un-installation fee will be deducted from the buyback price. The City is setting up a hotline so people can call in for more information or voluntarily report illegal water softener use.

According to a City memo, "With the construction on Central Avenue beginning to wind down, the merchants have scheduled a grand re-opening event for October 25, 2008." This event is the ArtHarvest, and it will feature not only sidewalk chalk art, but also visual art hung in area businesses, artists, musical entertainment, interactive art, and dramatic performances. An outdoor market, films, and lectures are also being planned.

The Council is supporting ArtHarvest and has approved a temporary use permit so that streets can be closed, but has authorized advertisement for bids for a Central Avenue Federal Pavement Improvements Project. According to another City memo, "The work consists of: cold planing existing pavement, asphalt hot mix overlay and striping from Hwy 126 to Sespe Avenue." The Council plans to award a contract for this work on September 23, and anticipates construction from October 13, 2008, to February 12, 2009. Public Works Director Bert Rapp assured the Gazette that a construction blackout period will be arranged so that the area will be neat and clean for the ArtHarvest Festival. The City's goal is for the street to be re-paved by Thanksgiving, in time for holiday shopping. Unfortunately, there is only one asphalt batch plant in Ventura County, and difficulties in scheduling asphalt deliveries might prevent this from happening. Rapp explained that the plant gives priority to larger CalTrans projects, and that one-day projects such as this one have lower scheduling priority. Brian Sipes suggested that the city use concrete instead of asphalt, and provided information on the advantages of concrete. The Council was receptive, but this particular project had to be approved by both the Federal Highway Association and CalTrans (an 18-month process), and changing materials now would not be timely. The Council instructed Rapp to submit future paving projects with both asphalt and concrete alternatives. The current project was submitted with asphalt and rubberized asphalt alternatives. Rubberized asphalt is more durable and environmentally friendly than regular asphalt.

There was considerable discussion about some amendments to the City of Fillmore Business Park Ordinance. According to the relevant memo, Fillmore Riverview, LLC, "has expressed concerns about the permitting process required to allow business park tenants to take occupancy in the Fillmore Business Park. They have stated that several of the uses that require conditional use permits in the Fillmore Business Park are outright permitted uses in other business parks and that this creates a competitive disadvantage for the Fillmore Business Park." Fillmore Special Projects Manager Roy Payne, Ray Harper of Fillmore Riverview, LLC, and Craig Peters of CB Richard Ellis spoke before the Council. The Council agreed that certain uses would be pre-approved to facilitate tenant occupation and make development more economically viable. The Council affirmed that this would apply only to Business Park area 2, not Business Park area 1. Area 1 is the frontage space and the City wants to be more particular about tenants in that area. The draft of the amendments was sent back to City staff for more research and additional pre-approved uses are being considered.

This year's International Day of Peace is September 21, 2008. Mayor Steve Conaway, on behalf of the City Council, presented the Soroptimist Club, represented by President Oralia Herrera and Member Sara Hansen, with a proclamation honoring the Day, which was established by the United Nations in 1982. The Soroptimists will celebrate in front of City Hall on September 21st at 1:30 p.m. The event will be covered by local cable Channel 10.

Marie Wren, the newly elected Vice President of the Senior Center Board, announced that the Senior Center is starting new programs and hoping for a revival. They have new furniture, a computer class, a yoga class, and will be starting a watercolor art class. They are planning to buy more computers for classes (20 people are on a waiting list for the computer class), planning trips, and planning to increase participation in the City's Meals on Wheels program. They will be rededicating their building during the October ArtHarvest.

There was a public hearing during the Council meeting on the formation of Community Facilities District #8 (Fillmore Business Park). The City is creating a special district for financial and tax purposes. The hearing was continued to November 25, 2008, because the annexation is not yet complete. LAFCO held a public protest hearing on the annexation on August 19, 2008. According to a City memo, "One protest … was received from Marvin D. Smith. However, since the majority of the landowners consented to the annexation and did not protest, the annexation is moving forward." Finance Director Barbara Smith said that the annexation is expected to be complete within 30 days.

The Council discussed the upcoming League of California Cities Annual Conference. The Council directed their delegate to vote against changing the bylaws to allow the association to increase fees. The Council also directed their delegate to vote against a resolution supporting a Comprehensive Statewide Water Infrastructure Plan, because the resolution calls for action specifically in the San Joaquin Valley area. The Council did not discuss the resolution supporting 211 California Telephone service, presumably because there were no objections to that resolution. People in many California counties, including Ventura County, can call 211 to be connected with human and community services and disaster information resources. The number was extremely helpful during the 2007 San Diego Fire Crisis, and also provides information regarding rent assistance, food banks, affordable housing, health resources, child and elderly care, financial literacy, and job training.

The Council approved operating procedures for an Emergency Cooling Center, which offers air-conditioned space and water during the day to the public in cases of 100-degree weather. When the Center is open, the Senior Center answering machine and Channel 10 will announce it, and VISTA will provide transportation for Seniors.

The Council agreed to send a letter to the Governor regarding Fillmore's grant from the Citizen's Option for Public Safety. The State has been providing $100,000 per year, which Fillmore uses to fund a full-time traffic enforcement motorcycle officer. Although the latest information indicates that the State will provide for 90% of the program, funding is uncertain because the State does not have a budget yet.

Andrew Belknap, Regional Vice President of Management Partners, Inc., presented the North Fillmore Initiative Impact Report. The report had been summarized at the previous Council Meeting. The gist of the final report is the same as the summary: if the initiative passes, there will be negative financial and legal consequences. The land in question is mostly vacant. Belknap noted that the big question is whether any development would occur at all in the North Fillmore area if the initiative passed. Low-density development might not be economically viable. The biggest negative impact would be a failure to meet the requirements of the Housing Element part of the City's General Plan. The Housing Element must be and has been approved by State agencies. Passing laws that do not comply with the approved Housing Element has gotten other cities sued and the laws rendered void. The initiative calls for a maximum of 350 units on that land instead of a maximum of 700. It would also reduce the potential density of development: instead of five to twenty units per acre, development would be limited to a range of one to five units per acre. It also calls for a 10-acre park. The City would have to acquire land from private property owners in order to build the park, and the Initiative makes no financial provision for that.

Public Speaker Jamey Brooks claimed that Fillmore citizens do not want North Fillmore to change. He said that developing 350 units would allow the area to maintain its suburban scale, like East Fillmore. He pointed out that apparently no one had asked the Sheriff's department whether high density development would like to higher crime rates, and no one had studied the impact of higher crime on the City. He believes the development of 700 units would mean 3000 to 4000 more cars on the streets. He is concerned about congestion on A Street and 126. He stated that Fillmore wants safer neighborhoods and less traffic problems.

Belknap responded that 700 units in the area would be suburban density. One unit on five acres is a rural, not suburban, density level. If the citizens of Fillmore consider the vacant areas open space rather than blight, then passing the initiative could maintain the status quo. But passing the initiative makes any development in North Fillmore unlikely for economic reasons and could lead to urban sprawl in other areas of the city as affordable housing is needed to meet State requirements.

Mayor Steve Conaway urged citizens to educate themselves and make their voting decision with "credible information based on fact and law instead of emotional arguments." Copies of the North Fillmore Initiative Impact Report are available at City Hall, on the City's web site as part of the 8/26/08 meeting packet), and at the Fillmore Library. There is also a separate legal analysis that the Council voted to make public. It details the potential liabilities that the City incurs if the initiative passes. That report is online at

Whether or not the initiative passes, the City had a deadline of June 2008 to update its Housing Element. Community Development Director Kevin McSweeney pointed out that the numbers of units the State has approved will not change, but how the City implements the requirements can change. The City is planning a workshop for sometime in September to explain State requirements and gather input from housing advocates and Fillmore citizens.

The Council discussed the likelihood of the FEMA regulatory map being amended before it is finalized. Mayor Pro-tem Cecilia Cuevas reported that lobbying efforts in Washington D.C. were very successful. FEMA's regional office is setting up a meeting to include local governments and the Army Corp of Engineers. The map will not be finalized in October, but FEMA will end public comments at that time, so that it can start to respond to the comments. Santa Paula Mayor Bob Gonzales was present and said that the map does not affect Santa Paula as much as it does Fillmore and Oxnard, but Santa Paula appreciates the efforts Fillmore made in D.C. He intends to participate in the anticipated FEMA Region 9 Meeting. The Council voted to issue a disclaimer on building permits in areas that might be affected under the draft map, but will not change its policies on issuing such permits because the map is expected to change and the County data that the City usually bases such decisions on tends to be more stringent than the FEMA data.

Due to a budgeting error that was not the fault of the Library Services Commission, the Ventura County Library System has to implement cost cutting measures. Fillmore Library will not have to cut back hours, but the budget for office supplies, technology, and books is extremely tight.

There will be a ground-breaking ceremony for the new park on September 9, 2008, before the Council Meeting.

Scott Lee and other Council members have decided to allow themselves to write letters expressing personal positions without the approval of the Council as a whole as long as it is clear that the opinions are theirs and not the Council's or the City's opinions.

The Council accepted the Town Theatre Budget status report for the 2007-2008 fiscal year.

The Council approved adjustments to the Potable Water Development Impact Fee (DIF), including a 0.4% increase in the DIF and a 1.15% increase in the Fire Service Fee. Council Member Patti Walker found an allocation error in one of the calculations, and the resolution was approved with the correction.

Mayor Pro-tem Cecilia Cuevas mentioned that KDF Communities, American Water, Best Rock Materials, Suncal Companies, and Cabrillo Economic Development Corp. have donated money to the Boys and Girls Club, which has an upcoming fundraiser.

After its executive session, the Council announced that the City had acquired a parcel east of B Street and north of the railroad tracks for use by the Water Recycling Project. The City needed the land for pipelines.

The council has waived the $100 temporary use permit fee for the Fillmore Women's Service Club rummage sale to be held October 4, 2008 in the Super A Parking Lot from 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.