A long-awaited report on which Ventura officials are expected to base plans for growth has been described as "a blueprint for disaster" by several members of the committee that drafted it.
At least three of the 14 members sitting on the Comprehensive Plan Review Committee said this week that they will release a minority report criticizing the group's recommendation to let the city grow from 87,500 to 122,000 people by the year 2010.
The disaffection, which comes at the end of nearly 1 1/2 years of study, stems from what dissenting members say was inadequate information provided to them about future water supplies.
Additionally, the committee failed to address the impact of growth upon traffic and community services--another shortcoming that made the report's population projections unrealistic and irresponsible, the dissenters charged.
"It will create nightmares for people who live in Ventura now and those who will live here in the future," said committee member Neil Moyer, enforcement manager for the county Air Pollution Control District. "The plan does not balance out expectations with reality."
Catherine Bean, a retired elementary school teacher who represented the League of Women Voters on the committee, agreed.
"We didn't have all the information we needed to make intelligent decisions," she said. "My hope is that, in some cases," the recommendations "are disregarded."
Committee member Rebecca Fox also agreed. "I certainly feel real frustrated," she said. If the report "gets voted in as is, or gets even more development put in, I'll still live in Ventura, but I'll be real unhappy about what I'll see."
The citizens advisory committee was appointed by the City Council in July, 1986, as part of the state-mandated process requiring cities to periodically review their planning guidelines. After meeting 40 to 50 times over the last 16 months, the committee made its recommendations public three weeks ago. The final report is to be released next month.
The Planning Commission and the City Council will then review the report at public hearings before adopting a comprehensive plan outlining the city's growth policies.
City planner Ann Chaney said that time and staffing constraints made it difficult to provide committee members with all requested information. Other data--such as where and how the city will get water to meet the projected growth--is simply not available, Chaney said.
"I empathize with the frustration they had," she said. "I would have preferred that kind of information up front. But it just wasn't available, and it's still not available. We don't know whether we're going to have state water, and we still may not know for a number of years."
City officials have hoped that Ventura's water supply, which is capable of supporting up to 102,000 people, will be supplemented by tapping into the State Water Project, which transports water to Southern California from the northern part of the state.
Chaney said that the City Council had directed the advisory committee to proceed as if Ventura would be able to obtain the state water to support the city's projected growth.
A majority of committee members agreed that the group needed to assume that the water would be available.
"You may as well take a positive attitude rather than a negative attitude," Clark Owens, a real estate broker, said. "I think you should plan with the idea that you are going to have these resources, and naturally, if they're not available, then you make your decisions as to what cannot be developed."
But dissenting members complained that a report to the city on the feasibility of transporting state water to Ventura was not made available to the committee until its final meeting.
The engineering study, which recommends constructing a $120-million pipeline to tap into the state's supplies, might have convinced some other committee members that bringing in the water could be exceedingly expensive and technically difficult, they said.
"I am concerned that we are deceiving ourselves into maybe thinking this is going to be an easy thing to do," Bean said. "We were told not to worry about water, that it would be here whenever it was needed. However, I don't feel quite that sanguine about it."
The critics also contended that the impact of growth on traffic and community services was virtually ignored by the committee. A 545-acre agricultural property east of Victoria Avenue was projected for development, they said, without any indication of how costs, such as road improvements and utilities, would be funded.
"It is not clear from the general plan how the population burden will be absorbed, how the community services will be provided and what the fiscal consequences are," Moyer said. "If the general plan doesn't lay out those things, then it really isn't being completely straightforward and honest with the public."
Chaney, however, said that the Planning Commission would later prepare environmental impact reports on all of the committee's recommendations to evaluate their effects on traffic.
"There certainly wasn't any intent not to give them information," she said. "But in some cases, it just wasn't practically possible to give them all the information they wanted."