2013-03-29 / Front Page

City grants conditional use permit for RV storage lot

Former code enforcement agent says city turned a blind eye for years
By Darleen Principe

After operating nearly 20 years without the proper permit, Moorpark’s sole recreational vehicle storage facility is now authorized to continue its business until at least 2018.

On March 20 the Moorpark City Council unanimously approved a five-year conditional use permit for Moorpark RV and Storage at 4875 Spring Road.

The 6.8-acre site, which started as a construction storage yard in the 1970s without a permit before the city incorporated, began storing residents’ RVs in 1994 under a temporary zoning clearance which expired two years later, according to a city staff report.

Dave Bobardt, Moorpark’s community development director, said the issue was “unique” because the property’s industrial use as a RV storage facility does not conform to the current guidelines of the area, which is zoned commercial under the city’s general plan.

Still, the community development department recommended last week that the City Council approve a five-year permit and up to one five-year extension, with a list of several conditions of approval.

“By that time, the permanent use and zoning can be determined on the site,” Bobardt said, adding that the property owner will be required to bring certain things in the facility up to municipal code in the coming years.

Besides being home to Moorpark RV and Storage, the Spring Road property is also the location of A-C Construction Inc.

Stephen R. Anderson owned and managed the property and its businesses until he died in February 2012.

Less than a month before Anderson died, he had begun an inquiry into the property’s permit status because a potential buyer had expressed interest in purchasing the RV business.

Upon looking into the request, officials discovered that a conditional use permit that should have been filed in 1998 to allow the storage facility to operate—after two separate zoning clearances expired—had never been submitted, according to the staff report.

Banny Anderson, the former owner’s widow, submitted the application for the required conditional use permit in April 2012.

Since then, the public hearing on the issue had been continued several times to allow city staff to work with Anderson and her attorney, Dennis Orrock.

As part of the permit approved last week, the RV storage facility must remove all shipping containers, inoperable vehicles and commercial vehicles from the property within 90 days, and use it solely for RV storage, Bobardt said.

A dump station that was built and connected to the city sewer system without permits, which offi cials discovered on the property last month, must also be removed.

Several other conditions involving parking, facility lighting and setbacks, as well as the removal of razor/barbed wire were also laid out in the approved permit.

Internal allegations

Mario Riley, who has been Moorpark’s code enforcement offi cer since 1990, recently accused some city leaders of allowing the RV storage facility to “exist illegally” for more than a decade.

He told the Moorpark Acorn that the temporary zoning clearance approved in 1994 was “fabricated” specifically to allow the storage facility to operate in the area, even though it wasn’t zoned for industrial use.

“You can either get a zoning clearance or a temporary use permit, which is used for temporary Christmas tree lots and things like that,” Riley said. “But they combined those things and made up this permit, sent it up to the council, and the council approved it.”

According to the city staff report, the temporary zoning clearance was issued under the condition that the business apply for a new zoning clearance permit within 18 months.

The report also shows that between November 1994 and October 1996, the city received applications for various other permits, including a second zoning clearance that was issued by the former community development director.

But in March 1997, the City Council told the former owner he needed to apply for a conditional use permit that would allow the facility to operate as a non-conforming use.

A pre-application was filed in May 1998. But after the site became entangled with several housing developers trying to get the neighborhood zoned residential for various projects in following years, all of which ultimately fell through, the permit was never issued, the document shows.

Riley said that after he received a call from the interested buyer of Moorpark RV in 2011, he launched his own investigation into the matter.

He called the dealings between Moorpark RV and the city “suspicious,” and alleged that city officials were conducting “selective enforcement” by allowing the facility to operate without a permit.

Steve Keuny, Moorpark’s city manager, said the complicated series of events was an “oversight.”

But Riley disagrees.

“This isn’t an oversight,” Riley said. “It’s malfeasance at the very least.”

The code enforcement officer also said that while he takes issue with the city, it’s “no reflection on Banny Anderson.”

“She’s just trying to clean up the mess,” he said.

In recent months Riley has contacted the California State Auditor and the Ventura County grand jury, asking them to look into the issue.

Last week the grand jury sent Riley a letter stating the new panel that convenes in July will handle his concerns.

Keuny said Riley’s allegation that the city was involved in suspicious dealings is false.

“The staff report shows that,” the city manager said, adding that he could not comment further on the matter because Riley is involved in a lawsuit against the city.

Riley, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2009, filed a lawsuit against the City of Moorpark in December 2012, alleging unlawful discrimination. According to a copy of the filed complaint, he is claiming $1.4-million in damages.

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