A National Park Service official tentatively has agreed to give a developer 60 acres of federal parkland to build a controversial road through Cheeseboro Canyon in exchange for 800 acres of adjacent property in Ventura County.
The agreement, if approved by the U.S. Department of Interior, would clear the way for Potomac Investment Associates of Gaithersburg, Md., to build the road through the southwest corner of Cheeseboro Canyon Park in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area to connect with the 2,300-acre Jordan Ranch.
Golf Course Proposed
Potomac, along with the PGA Tour Inc., proposed last fall to build a major tournament golf course and 1,848 homes on the Jordan Ranch. The two firms have an option to buy the property from its present owner, entertainer Bob Hope.
Project officials now say they will build the PGA course but are uncertain how many homes will be constructed on the remaining 1,500 acres of the ranch property.
Potomac needs the federal land to build the four-lane road that would link its proposed development with the Ventura Freeway by extending Liberty Canyon Road north of the freeway, spokesman Peter N. Kyros Jr. said.
Daniel R. Kuehn, superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, last year turned down a request by Potomac for road access through Cheeseboro Canyon. At the time, Kuehn said access for development through federal parkland "would set a horrible precedent."
Asked to Reconsider
He was asked to reconsider his decision by Interior Department officials after they were lobbied by the developers' attorney, William D. Fairfield, a former law partner of William P. Clark Jr., secretary of interior from 1983 to 1985.
Kuehn said he agreed to the Potomac proposal because he believes the land swap will benefit the public by increasing the size of the federal recreation area.
"I expect to be criticized by those who feel that the National Park Service should not be exchanging land that will promote development," Kuehn said. "My response is that we will be giving up a minimum amount of acreage and adding to the park 800 acres that we could not acquire in any other way."
Kuehn said that although the 2,300-acre Jordan Ranch had been targeted for future acquisition by the National Park Service, it is unlikely that the agency would ever have the $20 million to $30 million he estimated it would cost to buy the entire property. "We received $1 million for land acquisition for the 1988 fiscal year," he said.
In its proposal, Potomac agreed to give the National Park Service 555 acres in the northern portion of the Jordan Ranch known as China Flat. That area, which consists of rolling hills and oak savannas, is especially important because of its elevation and striking views, Kuehn said.
The remaining acreage to be given by Potomac to the Park Service is along the western border of the existing Cheeseboro Canyon Park, Kuehn said.
Potomac has also agreed to donate as much as $1 million to build a 15,000-square-foot visitors' center and National Park Service headquarters, Kuehn said. The 60-acre portion of Cheeseboro Canyon that would be given to Potomac to build a road now has a public parking lot for park visitors and a hiking trail, he said.
The land swap proposal, Kuehn said, is a fair one.
David M. Brown, president of the Las Virgenes Homeowners Federation, an association of 13 homeowners groups in the area, disagreed. He said he opposes the swap because it will bring urban development too close to Cheeseboro Canyon.
"Cheeseboro Canyon is a treasure, a gem, and to put a four-lane road through it is an outrage," Brown said.
Public hearings on the development project, which is subject to approval by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, are expected to begin this summer, county officials said. The land swap is subject to county approval of the project, Park Service officials said.
Approval of the land swap by Interior officials is subject to land appraisals that will ensure the values of the properties are "equal . . . or in favor of the federal government," Kuehn said.