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In an inside page of the Los Angeles Times, a headline caught my eye: "As Neighbors Live High on the Hog, Golf Course Builders Get Teed Off" (18 July 2000, page A5). The subhead summarized the article very well: "In a classic conflict between rural life and urban sprawl, Florida developers sue pig farmers they call a nuisance." The article detailed how a developer bought land to build 300 homes and an 18-hole golf course right next to two pig farms. Then, the developer sued to close the farms because of the flies and smells. One of those farms has been in continuous operation for 44 years.
This is another case where someone new buys into an environment and then tries to upset the established order. I have seen it several times, here in Ventura County, at the opposite end of the nation from Florida.
On very rare occasions, I attend a County Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors meeting in Ventura. Yet it seems that each time, this same situation arises.
With more space, picnic areas, expanded parking, and playground equipment were added to the plan. Then, after streets were paved and houses were built, the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District filed with Ventura County for permits to build Deerhill Park. Oops! For a while, I thought the District had instead filed to repeal motherhood. "We don't want that kind of people in our neighborhood!" outraged neighbors asserted, referring to soccer and softball players — referring to my own children both of whom played soccer and softball at one time. (My 33 year-old son still plays both.) Without any regard for the recreational needs of the rest of our community, these newcomers insisted that any park should merely be grass, flowers, and trees — nice to see but not to use.
These new neighbors even recruited environmentalists, who found a weed that might someday be listed as a threatened species. The environmentalists demanded that the soccer field and softball diamond be relocated into Oak Canyon Community Park. Their concern for the environment (?) was indicated by their lack of concern for the massive grading such a redesign would require in Oak Canyon Community Park — grading that would remove some 200-year-old oaks and scrape away even more specimens of the possibly threatened weed than lived in Deerhill Park.
At the County Planning Commission, these homeowners were adamant that the weed must be preserved. When they were told that individual specimens of the plant lived for only 5 to 8 years and that the seeds they dropped would not sprout unless scorched by a wildfire, they were not fazed. The thought of a brush fire right next to their homes did not frighten them as much as the sounds of children and adults enjoying themselves. When the Planning Commission voted 4-1 to allow the park to be built as designed, they appealed to the Board of Supervisors, which eventually upheld the Commission.
Deerhill Park was completed over a year ago.
Yes, there is a problem involving newcomers who buy into an existing situation and then try to change that situation. This is a nation-wide problem fought primarily at the local level. The Florida land developer knew there were pig farms next to his golf course, but he thought that would take only a minor effort to resolve (by driving the farmers away through a lawsuit). The Ojai homeowners wanted to live in a rural area; they just did not want to put up with the agricultural activities that are normal for a rural area.
In Oak Park, the homeowners claimed they knew nothing about the plans for Deerhill Park; some even claimed they did not know the land would be used for a park — a park designed before their homes were built. The New York Stock Exchange exhorts: "Investigate before you invest." That same rule should have been used by the Oak Park homeowners before they invested in their homes. Or perhaps they did investigate; perhaps they knew all along about the design of the park. But maybe they thought changing the park's design would require no more effort than removing the pigs from next to the Florida golf course.
Do not believe it! Deerhill Park was built as designed. And, according to the Los Angeles Times (23 July 2000), a judge ruled in the Florida case that the pig farms could continue operating right where they were; they only had to turn down the music the farmers played to keep the pigs calm. Newcomers might believe their money can buy any change they want, but the old-timers keep proving that prior tenure prevails.
30 July 2000
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