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Oxnard Seeks to Recoup Costs in 'Free' Project

November 26, 1987|MEG SULLIVAN | Times Staff Writer

It was an audacious plan--to turn a landfill into a golf course that would serve as the centerpiece of a truly exclusive neighborhood catering to the executives of businesses Oxnard hopes to attract with a slew of industrial parks.

The course was to be state-of-the-art and the clubhouse was to resemble the Crystal Cathedral. But the crowning glory of the River Ridge Golf Course was to be its cost to Oxnard residents: Nothing.

Developers of the exclusive Northwest neighborhood, most of which still remains on the drafting board, would foot the bill with help from another ingenious twist: methane gas emitted by the landfill's decaying contents would be piped from under the links, converted to electric power, and sold to Southern California Edison.

Three years later, however, city officials are trying to recoup $4.4 million they spent to refinance the $11.9-million bond issued for golf course construction in 1984. The project originally was to cost no more than $7 million. Strathmore Homes, one of the larger developers of Northwest Oxnard, subsequently paid $6.1 million in return for development rights for homes abutting the course.

City Council members are still fighting to make River Ridge Golf Course pay for itself. At a meeting Tuesday, they imposed development fees for residences to be built as far away as 2 1/2 miles from the golf course. Developers of homes within an eighth of a mile of the links will pay $23,863 per house; those as far as 5th Street will pay $1,193. The rates will increase yearly.

City Council members also moved Tuesday to sell an eight-acre parcel of city-owned property on the northeast corner of the golf course, which could bring in an additional $1.5 million. They also voted to allocate $200,000 of the $400,000 annually that the Radisson Hotel, which leases a link-side location from the city, is expected to raise from the city's hotel tax.

City Council members vetoed plans to pay for the links with money raised from tax revenues attributable to the presence of the golf course. To do so, they reasoned, would violate their pledge not to dip into the city's general fund.

They also ruled out taxing new developments south of 5th Street and increasing the city's 9% hotel tax.

A plan to spread the increased costs over more residences by increasing density in the Northwest met earlier with opposition from City Council members who argued that smaller lot sizes would be out of place in an exclusive development.

Assistant City Manager John Tooker emphasized that the $4.4- million cost increase can be traced to refinancing costs that he said would actually save the city money over 27 remaining years of the city's debt. However, he acknowledged that there were cost overruns associated with the project.

Unanticipated costs associated with covering the former Santa Clara Landfill with a clay cap to prevent toxins from seeping to the surface may have run as high as $3 million, Tooker said. Additionally, architectural drawings for the steel and glass clubhouse, which was later scrapped for a modest, wooden structure, were costly, he said.

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