The 3 Latest News Stories on Denial of Conejo Creek Development
VCStar 9-12-14 Edition
Conejo Creek developer set to yield
By Mike Harris
The developer of the now-dead Conejo Creek project sounded resigned to its fate Thursday.
“We have no options at this point,” Dennis Hardgrave, of Development Planning Services, said about 14 hours after the Camarillo City Council unanimously killed the project, nearly eight years after it was proposed. “Obviously, we’re disappointed that the process and the analysis for alternatives couldn’t continue through the planning process.”
Still, Hardgrave said he and the five farmland owners he represents in the project intend to complete the environmental impact report process, even though it won’t alter the council’s decision. A revised draft of the report was released in July. The public can comment on it until Sept. 20.
But why continue with the environmental process now that the project has been denied?
“EIRs have value for existing land uses, even the no-project version,” Hardgrave said. “An EIR is always a useful tool.”
Meanwhile, the many longtime opponents of the project were feeling a very different emotion Thursday — elation.
“What a wonderful, wonderful turn of events,” said Merrill Berge, founder of Camarillo Sustainable Growth. “We couldn’t have done it without all the citizen support. Packed hearings every single time. And that was the greatest indication of how much the residents were concerned about that project and the impacts on our community.”
Development Planning Services had proposed building the project on an 895-acre site near the bottom of the Conejo Grade at U.S. Highway 101 and Pleasant Valley Road.
It would have allowed 2,500 housing units, most of them for sale; 218 acres of recreation and open space; 17 acres of institutional uses; 100 acres of industrial space; and 54 acres of office and commercial space.
Opponents said the development would have unavoidable, significant environmental effects that would have degraded the quality of life in the city, including increased traffic congestion, the loss of 648 acres of farmland and a strain on the city’s already burdened water supply.
At the conclusion of a 2-hour hearing Wednesday night, the City Council voted to rescind a general plan amendment that would have rezoned the proposed site from agricultural to commercial/industrial/ residential. That effectively killed the project.
The council, however, gave the applicants the option to continue the environmental report process. City attorney Brian Pierik stressed that even if the report is ultimately certified, that is not tantamount to the project being approved.
“It’s just a study,” he said.
The council’s vote came after an overflow crowd — not the first at a meeting concerning the project — packed City Hall to urge the council to deny the project. Other than Hardgrave, not a single speaker voiced support for the development.
The council’s vote was met with loud applause and cheers from residents. Hardgrave and the applicants, by contrast, looked glum.
A number of opponents threatened political retribution against any council member who supported the project. Incumbents Mike Morgan,JanMcDonald and Charlotte Craven face reelection in November.
One opponent, Bob Merrilees, 70, said Thursday that he believes that the council got the message.
“In an election year, their vote was probably predictable,” he said.
“I think they would have made the same decision even if it wasn’t an election year,” he said.
Merrilees is in the preliminary stages of trying to place an initiative on a city ballot that would require a majority vote of residents to approve zoning changes like those the Conejo Creek applicants wanted.
“We have no reason to believe that this particular consortium of landowners won’t attempt to do it again, or maybe somebody else will come along and try to develop it,” the retired air traffic controller said.
In voting against the development, McDonald said that far from dividing the community, the project had united it in opposition.
“The people have spoken,” she said. “It’s time to pull the plug.”
2014-09-12 / Front Page
City City Council dams Conejo Creek development
5-0 vote blocks landowners from rezoning farmland
By Stephanie Guzman
The crowded Camarillo City Council chambers erupted in cheers Wednesday night as the council voted unanimously to put an end to the Conejo Creek development project.
The council voted 5-0 to rescind an amendment to the city’s General Plan, which would have rezoned the more than 700 acres of farmland, allowing it to be developed.
The large-scale development proposed 2,500 homes, industrial buildings, commercial space and a school on farmland at the base of the Conejo Grade.
At the end of a long public hearing, each of the five council members expressed their concerns with the project, including the development’s impact on groundwater resources and traffic on the 101 Freeway.
City Attorney Brian Pierik said that the development’s five landowners have already paid a significant amount of money to study the area.
Some council members said they would be in favor of finalizing the development’s environmental impact report.
Pierik told those in attendance that even if the city continues with the environmental review process and certifies the environmental impact report, it doesn’t mean the project is approved.
Still, residents urged the council to kill the project entirely.
Louise Roberts, a Camarillo resident who founded the Stop Conejo Creek Development community group, said it wasn’t worth anyone’s time, money or effort to continue the process.
The council agreed.
“From what I read, the development just can’t be mitigated so there’s no way we can ever adopt it,” Councilmember Charlotte Craven said.
“It’s time to pull the plug and rescind this project.”
Ultimately, the council unanimously voted to cancel the project’s General Plan amendment, which is the first step necessary for a landowner to study an area for development.
The decision would not prevent the landowners from returning at a later date to request another go at the project.
Dennis Hardgrave of Development Planning Services, the company representing the five landowners, said the owners will likely pitch a called down version of the project in the future.
Editorial – VCStar 9-12-14
Camarillo sees shortcomings in development
The Camarillo City Council made a pivotal decision Wednesday to block the Conejo Creek development proposed on the city’s east end near Highway 101.
In a unanimous vote,the council rescinded a general plan amendment necessary for the project to move forward. We are pleased that the council took the decisive action in view of the profound consequences the development would have on the community as made clear in the latest environmental review document on the project.
The unavoidable negative impacts were repeatedly emphasized by many concerned residents who on several occasions addressed the council and the city Planning Commission, urging a halt to the project. We salute residents for making their views known.
It is encouraging to see local government work with such responsiveness to serious public concerns and negative environmental impacts that couldn’t have been mitigated. According to the project’s updated draft environmental report, released in July, the development would significantly alter the character of Camarillo with increased traffic and noise and the loss of 648 acres of farmland.
The proposal involves 2,500 housing units, 100 acres of industrial space, 54 acres of office and commercial space, 17 acres of institutional uses and 218 acres of recreation and open space. It would generate an estimated 41,000 new vehicle trips a day, which would add dramatically more traffic to an already frequently overloaded Highway 101. Other nearby roads, such as Santa Rosa Road and Pleasant Valley Road, also would carry more traffic.
This would have been in addition to the Springville development already approved by the city, which is to be built at the opposite end of Camarillo. That development will include 1,335 residential units and will generate an estimated 21,000 new vehicle trips a day when it’s completed.
Residents have a reasonable basis for their concern, and the council took a reasonable action regarding proper development of the city.