A Japanese broadcasting tycoon's proposal for an exclusive golf club and conference center in the Ojai Valley was thwarted this week when the Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted not to ease development restrictions on land zoned as open space.
The county planning staff had prepared a report that would have permitted a scaled-down version of the executive retreat to be built on an isolated portion of Rancho Matilija, but supervisors Tuesday rejected the idea as creating too many loopholes.
"It just looked like we were asking for more problems than we were solving," said Supervisor James Dougherty, one of three supervisors who had voted in February to have the report prepared.
However, the attorney for Kagehisa Toyama, owner of Tokyo's largest radio station, said the Board of Supervisors was mistaken in thinking that the 230-acre project would be inconsistent with an open-space zone.
The club would cater only to a small cadre of international businessmen and politicians, who would come precisely to enjoy the tranquil, undeveloped surroundings, said Allen F. Camp, a Thousand Oaks attorney representing Toyama's Farmont Corp.
An additional 1,500 acres of wooded land surrounding the site was purchased recently by Toyama to serve as a buffer to further insulate guests and lessen the project's environmental impact, Camp said.
"We are essentially a passive, recreational-oriented use," he said after Tuesday's board meeting. "I think it's unfortunate that things got a little confused this morning."
Camp said he does not yet know what Toyama will seek to do with the land, situated west of the Ventura River at the edge of the Los Padres National forest.
Although county supervisors last year rejected Toyama's project as inappropriate for an open-space zone, the board, by a 3-2 vote, later directed the planning staff to prepare a report that would define what levels of development might be acceptable in such areas.
To the dismay of environmentalists, the planners concluded that conference centers could be compatible with the preservation of pristine lands if the intensity of use was kept below certain thresholds.
Using a formula devised from population density figures in the County General Plan, the report proposed a density standard not to exceed one person per four acres for overnight guests and one person per two acres for the total number of guests.
For a 250-acre parcel, that standard would have permitted 65 overnight guests and 130 total visitors.
In addition, the report proposed building standards that would have limited the size of sleeping facilities to 200 square feet per guest, or 13,000 square feet for a 250-acre parcel. A cap of 20,000 square feet was proposed for all other structures.
Although Toyama had originally proposed a 50,000-square-foot meeting hall, as well as 25 two-unit bungalows and a world-class golf course, the project could probably have been scaled down to meet those guidelines, Camp said.
However, when it came time for the board to consider adopting those standards, the support was no longer there.
One Supervisor Absent
Supervisor Maggie Erickson, who favored the study, did not attend Tuesday's meeting because she was finishing a three-week government course at Harvard University.
Dougherty, who represents the east county, said he had favored the report mainly to ensure that zoning rules would not derail plans for the Reagan Presidential Library near Simi Valley.
And Supervisor Madge L. Schaefer, who had made the motion for county staff to study the issue, said she had hoped that the report would define conference centers in such a way that they were clearly incompatible with open space, not the reverse.
"If it's a conference center, then why don't we just call it what it is?" Schaefer said. "That's all I was looking for."