Oxnard city officials this week joined the opposition to a proposed 142-acre commercial and industrial development that would involve the largest conversion of agricultural land to urban uses since Ventura County established greenbelt areas between cities in 1984.
Oxnard City Council members voted Tuesday to urge the county Board of Supervisors to reject a preliminary zone change for the property, which consists of a strawberry field and adjoining open space in an unincorporated greenbelt area between Oxnard and Camarillo.
Camarillo city officials in November said they were opposed to the development, which would be built at the intersection of Los Angeles and Vineyard avenues north of the Simi Valley Freeway.
Developer Martin G. Ahearn of Camarillo defended his proposal as an improvement to the property, which he said is a former sand pit that is marred with pockets up to 45 feet deep.
"It's not prime ag land," said Ahearn, president of Acres Realty of Camarillo. "It's a hole."
He said that his proposal, which calls for a truck stop and warehouse district, would put "unsightly businesses out of view" by moving them from the city.
But Oxnard officials disagreed. They fear the proposal would set a precedent for taking prime agricultural land out of production.
"If the county were to approve the 142-acre change," an Oxnard Community Development Department report said, "it would make it much more difficult to defend the concept of maintaining open space and the agricultural viability within the adopted . . . greenbelt."
Oxnard officials plan to invoke the same argument when they oppose other developments proposed for nearby agricultural lands, such as a new county jail and a 62-acre industrial park on Hueneme Road.
Ahearn said he may try to win over city officials by offering the equivalent amount of unprotected land for inclusion in the greenbelt.
County associate planner Joseph Eisenhut, whose department has yet to make a formal recommendation, predicted an uphill battle for Ahearn.
"There are many, many problems with this request," he said.