Owner Claims L.A. Is Stealing His Land

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Los Angeles County officials conspired to seize “several hundred acres of rugged mountainous land” from a private landowner to give it to a conservation group, the owner claims in Federal Court.
     Wayne Fishback claims that Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich conspired with several county agencies, “dispossess (him) of his land,” condemn it and sell it for ostensible public purposes “at a severely reduced or zero value” to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
     Defendants include the Department of Public Health, the Solid Waste Facilities Hearing Board, the Department of Public Works, the Planning Department, and officials in the District Attorney’s Office and the Building and Safety Department.
     The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy is not a party to the July 29 lawsuit.
     Fishback claims the conservancy has bought property near his and has designated parts of his land as an “important wildlife corridor.”
     He says his land north of Chatsworth in the Santa Susana Mountains is “mostly fallow and highly eroded canyons and ravines,” which he bought in August 2007.
     The property hosted a mining operation that caused a lot of erosion, and Fishback says he submitted his plans to clean up and improve the land and maintain its roads and spent $50,000 on engineering.
     The county issued a cease and desist order on Feb. 26, demanding that Fishback stop stockpiling solid waste and fill material. He says the order stopped him from reusing material that otherwise would be in landfills.
     Fishback, an architect, says he takes “discarded construction materials,” reuses and repurposes them and does not store them longer than state law allows, but the defendants are unlawfully interfering and ordering agencies to “impose further punitive measures” on him.
     He challenged the county’s order, but his appeals go to the Solid Waste Facilities Hearing Board, which he says produces “the same sham results.”
     He claims that since he bought his property, county officials have conducted an unconstitutional warrantless search, filed criminal charges against him that were dropped, and they “harass, frustrate and violate” his rights.
     Fishback compares them to Ventura County, which he sued in 2006 to stop a land-seizure. Ventura County claims Fishback didn’t pay his property taxes for five years, fined him $21.7 million for dumping and is trying to seize his property to sell it, the Simi Valley Acorn reported in April.
     Fishback seeks injunctive relief and damages for violations of his state and federal rights to due process and equal protection.
     County officials and Fishback’s attorney, Mainak D’Attaray of Long Beach, declined comment.

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