Conejo Creek is back from the VC Star
Contentious proposal for development near Conejo Grade’s base revived by landowner
AMANDA COVARRUBIAS AMANDA.COVARRUBIAS@VCSTAR.COM, 805-437-0218
A little more than two years ago, a plan to build thousands of homes near the base of the Conejo Grade was nixed by the Camarillo City Council after an outcry from residents, who complained it would worsen traffic and spoil expansive views of farmland. Now, one of the landowners involved in the Conejo Creek project is proposing to build a similar but smaller development in the area, one it says won’t diminish the iconic farmland-to-the-sea view enjoyed by drivers heading north on Highway 101.
Calleguas Land Co. will ask the City Council on Jan. 25 for the OK to move ahead with plans to build 1,593 residential units and 125,000 square feet of commercial space on agricultural land at Adohr Lane and Pleasant Valley Road.
In its application, the Malibu-based company is presenting the 760-acre Adohr Lane project as an antidote to Ventura County’s housing shortage. County voters recently approved extending some of the nation’s most restrictive growth laws into 2050, and economists say the need for more housing is reaching critical levels.
“Beyond 2021, additional housing units will be necessary to accommodate regional housing needs,” Calleguas Land Co. officials said in their application. “The project would address the regional housing needs beyond 2021.”
The development would be built on two parcels west of the freeway, separated by an industrial park. Nearly half the land — 309 acres — is in unincorporated Ventura County but within the city’s “area of interest.”
It would include a 42acre park, 67 acres of open space and 17 acres of trails and recreational areas. Another 67 acres would remain agricultural.
A thumbs-up by the City Council would allow the developer to move onto the next phase of the process, including studying its impact on the environment and requesting zoning changes. Nearly 10 years ago, Calleguas Land Co. and several other landowners had proposed to develop hundreds of acres of agricultural land at the base of the grade. But the council eventually killed the 2,500-home Conejo Creek development in 2014. Its decision came after an overflow crowd packed City Hall, urging council members to deny the project, with some opponents threatening political retribution. Three council members were facing reelection that November.
Camarillo resident Bob Merrilees, an opponent of the Conejo Creek project, said he and other residents will attend the council meeting to express their displeasure with the latest incarnation.
“There’s nothing new here,” Merrilees said. “Their housing density is still pretty high and the access is pretty bad. Traffic in this area is notorious.”
No council members are facing reelection this year. But there is another wrinkle in the equation.
The Calleguas Land Co. sued the city last year to keep a growth-control measure for Camarillo off the ballot. It lost that battle. The local Save Open-space & Agricultural Resources measure passed by more than 73 percent in November.
But the company is asking a judge to hear a second phase of the litigation, which basically claims that Measure J was inaccurately worded. The measure created a 700-acre Voter Participation Area to give the public direct control over the Conejo Creek site.
At issue in the lawsuit is about 300 acres that lie outside the city limits but that Calleguas and a coplaintiff contend were described incorrectly as being inside those limits.
Camarillo City Councilwoman Charlotte Craven said she didn’t think the landowner would return with a plan so soon after voters extended SOAR. “There was never a doubt in my mind that they were going to request again,” Craven said this week. “SOAR was just voted on in November, so I was surprised to see it so quickly.” She said she will consider the proposal, and others before the council next week, with an open mind. “What I tell people is everybody has a right to ask (to develop),” she said. “We don’t have an obligation to say yes. But we do have an obligation to listen to what people say and use our own judgment.”
Among the other proposals scheduled to be considered by the council next week is a plan to develop Camarillo Springs Golf Course, a proposed mixed-use development at the Kmart shopping center on Arneill Road and a sports complex at Las Posas and Pleasant Valley roads.
A fence marks the entrance to a field along Pancho Road in Camarillo, where a housing and commercial development could be built. Two years ago, the Camarillo City Council rejected a proposal for a larger development in the area.