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Local businessman challenges system

Planners want builder to obtain permit, he says it’s not necessary

Posted: June 11, 2009 10:13 p.m.
Updated: June 12, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Signs on the corner of Sierra Highway and Fitch Avenue in Canyon Country display Valencia businessman Chris Ball's frustration over what he believes is Los Angeles County placing obstacles preventing him from building.


A group of signs near the intersection of Sierra Highway and Sand Canyon Road is one man’s way of expressing his frustration with what he says is the county’s application of red tape.

“Mike Antonovich! Why can’t I build my house?” one sign reads. To the right of that a sign stands another, which reads: “Future Toxic Waste Dump, Site For Sale By Owner, Buyer to Obtain Approvals.”

Chris Ball, 60, a Valencia businessman who won’t confirm where he lives, said his signs are a testament to his fight against what he considers an overblown bureaucracy.

“I consider it my right and duty as a citizen to bring attention to what I consider tyranny,” Ball said.

The fuel that propels Ball to call out county politicians is his frustration with multiple county agencies, he said. He claims he has been tangled in bureaucratic red tape that keeps him from building eight custom homes on property he owns near the intersection of Sierra Highway and Sand Canyon Road.  

“I want to build a house for myself, then build one house at a time until I die,” Ball said. “After that I don’t care what happens with the property.”

Ball’s current battle is with the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning.

“My lots were entitled in 1970 with certificates of exemption,” he said.

But that’s not the gospel according to Los Angeles County.

“Regional Planning and County Counsel have determined that a conditional-use permit is required (to develop the property),” said Paul Novak, planning deputy for County Supervisor Mike Antonovich.  

According to Ball, the property’s exemptions allow him to build on the hillside in spite of a 1985 hillside ordinance for the Santa Clarita Valley prohibiting hillside development. Ball also claims that the same certificate exemptions in the property’s entitlement allow him to bypass the conditional-use permit required by Regional Planning when a development runs contrary to zoning restrictions or needs special consideration due to the project’s impact on surrounding property.  

To prove he has a hillside building exemption, Ball needs to meet with the Regional Planning Board, Novak said.

And that’s where things begin looking a bit like a Catch-22.

To get the meeting, he has to apply for a conditional use permit, said Ball.

Novak confirmed Ball’s interpretation of the process.

The process takes between nine to 12 months, said Novak.

That’s where the dispute now rests.

“They (Regional planning) say I need a conditional use permit, but the entitlements on my property say otherwise,” Ball said.

Ball’s battle with Regional Planning is the most recent in a series of conflicts between him and county-run agencies. His first brush with bureaucracy was in 2007.

“I spent a year clearing the grading permit,” he said. After spending three years grading the property, Ball needed the county to sign off on the plan. The authorization took a year and multiple meetings with county officials, he said.

Ball also has hassled with the county over provision of water to his property. He says the well is fine, the county says it failed to pass its tests.

“I don’t care if I ever build on this land,” he said. “My fight now is against this bureaucracy.”



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