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Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 4:35 am | Fair 50º


Appeals Court Says County Did Not Err in Denying Permit for Jim Mosby’s Lompoc Sports Fields

An appellate court has ruled in Santa Barbara County’s favor supporting the rejection of a permit for Jim Mosby’s unpermitted sports fields on land adjacent to Lompoc.

The Second Appellate District for the Court of Appeal issued its 16-page ruling Tuesday in the case of Jim Mosby vs. Santa Barbara County. 

The issue stems from the county’s decision to deny Mosby — who now serves on the Lompoc City Council — a permit to operate a recreational facility on land zoned for agriculture.

“We conclude that the denial is supported by substantial evidence, after examining ‘all relevant evidence in the entire record,”” the ruling said. “Mosby’s small site adjoins agricultural operations that use pesticides, and his project degrades the soil and lacks public services.

“The county drew a line and refused to approve an urban-type facility hosting up to 780 patrons per weekend day in a rural area. This was not a prejudicial abuse of discretion,” the appellant judges added.

Since 2006, Mosby has operated a sports field on 19.5 acres near River Park, off Highway 246, although he did not obtain permits for the commercial facility.

The site includes a paintball field, a remote-controlled car track, and soccer fields, all in violation of county zoning laws, the ruling noted. Mosby also has greenhouses, a residence, a warehouse, aquaculture ponds, and a parking lot for 150 cars.

In 2011, a complaint to the county led to a $2,000 fine and prompted Mosby to seek a conditional-use permit. The Board of Supervisors rejected Mosby’s attempt to rezone the land and rejected his conditional-use permit application in 2014.

He was ordered to remove the unpermitted recreational facilities.

Mosby challenged the ruling in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, with a judge staying the county’s demand to remove the sports fields and ordering the board to reconsider the matter.

In the June 2015 reconsideration, the board denied the permit, citing several factors saying the project is “an intensive urban-type use with up to 780 visitors per day, leading to soil compaction and human exposure to pesticides drifting from adjacent cultivated fields.”

Additionally, the site has inadequate access to restrooms and roads; is incompatible with adjacent agricultural operations that use pesticides; conflicts with the county’s land-use goals and policies; and introduces land-use conflicts in a designated “rural” area.

Mosby again challenged the county ruling in Superior Court but lost, leading him to file the appeal. Attorneys on both sides made oral arguments in mid-December.

Appellate judges said the Board of Supervisors  “did not arbitrarily deem Mosby’s property too small for a busy sports facility in a rural area.”

Instead, the ruling noted adjacent River Park is nearly 86 acres, much larger yet host to a similar volume of people.

Mosby's own complaint about pesticide drifting from a nearby field were use against him in the appeal. 

“The record belies Mosby’s claim about a single complaint: it contains his 2009 complaints, his acknowledgement of ‘a long history’ of pesticides drifting onto his property, and similar concerns voiced by his tenant,” the ruling said.

The ruling noted Mosby had been told since 2011 the site lacked restrooms, drinking water and a public access road, saying he needed to get formal approval from the city to allow use of River Park facilities.

“Even if an agreement were reached, patrons must walk a mile, round trip, to use the River Park restrooms, which the Board deemed ‘an unreasonable distance for people, and particularly children, to travel to obtain water and use the restroom,'” the ruling said.

No formal agreement exists allowing Mosby to use the Lompoc-owned road leading into the park to access his sports fields, the ruling noted.

The court also ordered Mosby to pay the county’s costs for the appeal.

County Counsel Michael Ghizzoni declined to comment about the ruling, but said he appreciated “the solid work by Deputy County Counsel Jenna Richardson, who was our primary attorney for this litigation.”

Mosby, who was represented by Kate M. Neiswender, remained coy about whether he intends to take the matter to the California Supreme Court or his next step, suggesting an option of selling shares of the land so others could use it.

“I don’t know. I didn’t realize agriculture was that toxic, did you?” he asked, referring to the ruling’s comments about pesticide drift as “kind of eye-opening.”

Mosby claims he has a letter from a former city administrator allowing him to use the road and commending him for providing recreational activities on his land.. 

He also claims a top county official asked him to keep the recreational facility open. 

“The sad part is it doesn’t hurt me to close it down. I get weekends off,” Mosby said, adding that in addition to Lompoc, people from Santa Maria, Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara travel to use the site.

“The sad part is it hurts thousands of people who have the opportunity to use my fields.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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