July 17, 2008

Fillmore Gets OK to Annex 41 Acres Subject to Flooding

By Carolyn Quinn, Ventura County Star, Calif.

Jul. 17--Fillmore's plan to create a 90-acre business park moved forward a step Wednesday, when the Local Agency Formation Commission approved the city's proposal to annex 41 acres for the project. The proposal had been continued from LAFCO's June 11 meeting.

The move was contrary to LAFCO staff's recommendation that the proposal not be approved because all of the land in question lies in an area identified in Federal Emergency Management Agency preliminary reports as a flood plain. From 50 percent to 60 percent was identified as being in a floodway.

A flood plain is an area that would be inundated during the kind of flood that has a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year. A floodway is a channel or land adjacent to a channel that, during a flood, would collect deep, fast-moving water.

The flood maps in Fillmore are being updated for the first time in about 25 years. The flood maps currently in place do not identify the business park land as being at risk.

The new FEMA maps could go into effect next year. While Fillmore city officials have said the FEMA findings are based on erroneous information, LAFCO Senior Analyst Kai Luoma said it was the best information currently available.

"It places development in a potentially hazardous area," he said in his presentation to LAFCO commissioners.

Eight city officials spoke after Luoma's presentation. They pointed out that the 41-acre section of the proposed business park would house 1,500 of the park's 2,500 to 4,000 jobs.

"That's big for Fillmore," Councilwoman Laurie Hernandez said. "Our citizens have the right to work in the city where they live."

Interim Fire Chief Bill Herrera said the area would be incorporated into Fillmore's disaster management plans, and tax revenues from the business park would help fund public safety.

Several officials said the city would do what it could to correct problems identified by FEMA. That included issues involving the Sespe Creek levee, which may not be reaccredited. The levee was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is on land owned by the Ventura County Watershed Protection District.

"We are not going to be out there as lone cowboys ignoring what's going on in the FEMA world," said city Public Works Director Bert Rapp.

The city has hired a consultant to review FEMA's findings, and the Watershed Protection District has hired its own consultant.

The vote by LAFCO was 5-2. The two votes against the approval were cast by Supervisor Linda Parks and George Lange of Thousand Oaks.

Both cited concerns about safety.


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