Lawsuit filed against Kern County, Board of Supervisors over alleged illegal land use fee hikes

by ZeuCer

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A lawsuit against Kern County and the Board of Supervisors claims the board illegally increased land use fee hikes over the last two years.

The lawsuit was filed earlier this month in Kern Superior Court.

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Attorney Ralph Wegis’ case revolves around actions taken by county supervisors in 2021 and 2022 to raise land use fees and place them on the property tax rolls, ostensibly to pay for increased costs of solid waste collection services. The suit alleges homeowners were hit with a 27% increase in 2021 and a 71% hike in 2022.

Supervisors and Public Works staff stated each time, the rate hikes were needed to comply with Senate Bill 1383 which imposes mandatory organic waste recycling requirements on local governments to reduce climate-warming methane gas emissions from landfills.

But the lawsuit claims that was in violation of Prop 218 which restricts the ability to state and local governments to impose taxes and fees.

“The county has violated the Constitutional rights of every one of our class members,” Wegis said. “We have protection from governmental entities taxing us for things that are not related directly to our property.”

Wegis said it could cost local taxpayers as much as $50 million.

“There’s a right way to do this and there’s a wrong way to do it. And the wrong way is to violate somebody’s constitutional rights and make them pay a bill that isn’t their bill.”

The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the county, to place the land use fee hikes in question on hold. It also asks the court to declare this a class action lawsuit with potentially hundreds, if not thousands of plaintiffs seeking refunds, should the court find in their favor.

County officials declined requests from 17 News about the pending litigation.

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