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Vote Sought to Temper Growth in Moorpark

December 02, 1985|HERBERT A. SAMPLE | Times Staff Writer

A group of Moorpark residents, distressed over what it believes is too-rapid growth, has begun collecting signatures for an initiative to limit construction of homes to 250 a year.

The initiative, pushed by the Committee for Managed Growth, is similar to a ballot measure the group circulated 1 1/2 years ago. That measure was abandoned after charges that it would kill attempts to obtain state funds for a new high school.

This time, though, the managed-growth committee says it does not believe the proposed initiative would affect school construction money.

Committee members said Moorpark's continued rapid growth--population has increased by 6,000 in the last five years--has put a strain on services and schools.

Supporters said they also fear that continued growth will soon turn what was once a rural, agricultural town into a carbon copy of the urbanized areas of the San Fernando Valley, which many residents sought to escape by moving to eastern Ventura County.

Fear of 'Urban Trappings'

"People moved to Moorpark because it is a small town," said Bob Crockford, a six-year resident and president of the managed-growth committee. "What we really don't want is to see it take on some of the urban trappings."

There is no organized opposition to the initiative yet; the gathering of the required 601 signatures by mid-April began only three weeks ago. But some civic leaders have taken a stand.

City Councilman Thomas (Bud) Ferguson, a 12-year resident of the area, recently placed an advertisement in a local newspaper, labeling the initiative "reckless."

If the initiative supporters succeed, " . . . forget job growth for Moorpark . . . forget state funding to improve Highway 118 . . . forget parks for our children and senior citizens," Ferguson said in the ad.

Mayor James Weak, a four-year resident, said: "We need new building to pay for new schools, new roads and new firehouses." He said initiative supporters "don't understand that."

'Chasing a Rainbow'

But paying for needed public services with fees from new housing is like "constantly chasing a rainbow," said Mary Horton-Wozniak, an initiative proponent.

About 5,000 people lived in the unincorporated community in 1975. By 1984, a year after incorporation, 11,850 were counted, and this year the population climbed to more than 14,000, city and county figures indicate.

The city's general plan projects 29,000 residents by 1990 and 35,000 by the year 2000, said Diane Eaton, associate planner.

Since the mid-1983 incorporation, 5,000 dwelling units have been approved by the city, and roughly half of those have been built, according to city figures. That has put a strain on schools and a demand for parks, among other things.

Reduce Building Permits

The initiative, patterned after ordinances in Thousand Oaks and Camarillo, would reduce the number of building permits issued in 1986 to 400, and to 250 each year thereafter through 1994. Several kinds of projects, including senior-citizen, low-income housing and single-family homes on five acres or more, would be exempted.

Limiting home construction to 250 each year could still lead to an annual increase of 1,000 residents, Crockford said. But slower growth would give city services a chance to catch up with the population, he said.

Supporters point to schools as an example of a public service that has not matched population growth. Horton-Wozniak, president of a Peach Hill Elementary School parents' group, said the school was overflowing the day it opened last year. Three portable classrooms have eased the situation, she said.

Michael R. Slater, the new superintendent of the Moorpark Unified School District, denied that any of the schools are too crowded. "We're able to house all students adequately," he said.

Future Obligations

Slater agreed with initiative proponents that the measure will not affect state funding of a new high school. But, he said, it could have a serious effect on the district's financial obligations for elementary-school construction.

Developers now pay the district $2,100 for each residence built. In the 1985-86 fiscal year, 265 units will have to be built in order for the district to meet its payment schedule for a loan used to build Peach Hill school, Slater said.

The number of required units drops to about 200 and below in succeeding years, he said. But those figures are based on hopes that the state will finance the construction of an elementary school in the Mountain Meadows development, Slater said. If it does not, and the district decides to borrow funds to build the school, 365 units must be built in the 1986-87 fiscal year in order to pay back the loans, he said. About 580 units would be needed the next year.

Crockford said Slater's reasoning "seems to show a complete lack of planning. What would they do if there was a recession or an increase in interest rates? . . .They have to stop mortgaging the future. They have to find another way."

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