Eastern Ventura County--a collection of quiet, orderly suburbs that in recent years have fostered a stubborn resistance to large-scale residential and commercial development--is about to shed its anonymity in a big way.
In separate announcements during the last 10 days, the area has been named the future home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and a major PGA tournament golf course.
The projects, which will require public hearings and approval by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, are certain to raise significant questions about the future use of undeveloped land, now zoned for open space, in the county's unincorporated areas closest to the San Fernando Valley, say residents and city and county officials.
"It's hard to get mad at a golf course; it's hard to get mad at a presidential library, but these things start to add up," said Thousand Oaks Mayor Lee Laxdal, whose city is next to both projects. "If we don't make clear to the supervisors what kind of world we want in Ventura County, we may end up a little blob in the middle of a megalopolis."
Although the presidential library has received widespread support from residents and elected officials, some worry that its approval--and that of the golf course--may be the first step in the gradual elimination of the large open spaces that now separate cities in Ventura County.
1 Home Per 40 Acres
The open space zoning designation is meant to preserve agricultural land and greenbelt areas, and allows only one single-family house to be built per 40 acres.
Ventura County policy currently limits development to land within municipalities. Under pressure from developers, however, the Board of Supervisors earlier this month created a 31-member group to review that policy. The group, which will also study the effects of county growth in the next century, is expected to file a report to the board in one year, officials said.
County planners already know that transportation problems, air pollution and water shortages loom for Ventura County after the year 2000, officials said.
"Even if it were possible to wave a magic wand and say no more residential, commercial or industrial will be developed, just on the issue of air quality alone, we still could probably never attain the air standard quality levels set by the federal government," county planner Bruce Smith said.
County transportation planners predict that the Ventura Freeway running through Ventura County will require 10 to 12 travel lanes to maintain a reasonable level of service and carry the estimated 200,000 cars that will use it daily by the year 2000, Smith said.
Additional traffic, congestion and noise from the more than 200,000 people who are expected to visit the presidential library and the golf course each year are inevitable, city and county officials said. But those problems may be small compared to the benefits of national exposure, new tourist dollars and community pride that the two projects are expected to bring, officials said.
The balancing of these anticipated problems and benefits will figure strongly in the final decision by the county on whether to approve the projects, said Supervisor Madge Schaefer, who represents the area where the golf course is planned.
"It's going to be a trade-off," Schaefer said. "There are certainly going to be measurable environmental impacts that need to be looked at very carefully."
Both growth advocates and preservationists are lining up for what figures to be a long debate over what eastern Ventura County will look like in the next century. Preliminary review of the golf course and presidential library plans by county officials is expected to begin early next year, with the final board vote as much as two years away.
Ken Kantor, a spokesman for entertainer Bob Hope, who owns the 2,300-acre Jordan Ranch where developers plan to build the golf course, as well as 1,848 homes, said: "Bob is as concerned about the environment as anyone else, but his feeling is that all they want to do is make it a beautiful place for people to live."
Spokesmen for Potomac Investment Associates of Maryland and the PGA Tour, which will develop the golf course and residential project, predict that the course will attract at least one major professional golf event a year. Such an event is expected to bring in about 100,000 spectators during the week of a tournament, PGA Commissioner Deane Beman said.
A nationally televised tournament at such a golf course, known as a Tournament Players Club, can be expected to bring in between $25 million and $75 million in tourist dollars to area businesses, Beman said. Nationwide, there are 12 such courses, which are designed to accommodate large numbers of spectators, he said.
"We will prove that we will be good neighbors and that we will be a valuable asset to the community," Beman said.