A recently released Navy report strongly criticizes a proposed $2-billion development on Oxnard's Ormond Beach for its proximity to runways at the Pacific Missile Test Center at Point Mugu.
The report, which was presented Saturday to a citizens advisory group reviewing Oxnard's general plan, said that base flight operations would pose significant safety and noise hazards for residents of the 2,900-acre, marina-oriented development.
Navy officials fear that residents' complaints could lead to calls to close the base, whose facilities are characterized in the report as "unparalleled and unduplicable in the United States, if not the world."
"When you have noise complaints, people start to organize to try to close down the base," base spokesman Ray Lucasey said. "History has shown this."
If the base were to leave Ventura County it would take 16,000 jobs and $590 million in payroll and business contracts with it, the report said. Relocating the base would cost the federal government $700 million, the report said.
A vice president for the Baldwin Co. of Irvine, the project's developer, called the Navy's objections alarmist.
"We don't see the Ormond Beach marina plan as at all inconsistent with Point Mugu," Jim Harter said. "We'd be providing housing and recreational opportunities for people who work there and commercial structures for businesses that do business with the Navy."
Navy officials stressed that the report is advisory only. They said they have been meeting with Baldwin and city officials to reach a compromise.
The development, which would include 10,500 homes and a 1,600-slip marina, must go through many city and county reviews before it is approved. One big hurdle is Oxnard's General Plan Advisory Committee, which will recommend how Ormond Beach should be developed in its revision of the city's general plan. The committee is scheduled to discuss the Navy's arguments today.
"I can sympathize with Mugu," said Stewart Mimm, a committee member. "The aircraft would be flying as close or closer to homes than at the Oxnard Airport, which is a pussycat compared to Mugu. This is a threat of a tiger."
The southeast corner of the development would come within a quarter-mile of a runway at the base, whose aircraft operations make for "the most complex airspace operated by the Navy," the report said.
About 30 acres of the development would fall within an "accident potential zone," in which the U.S. Department of Defense forbids any construction, the report said. Another 884 acres would be in an area where state and federal guidelines discourage residential development because of airplane noise, the report said.
The report said that the development's marina would "dramatically increase" the number of leisure boats near the center's sea test range, where the Navy conducts about 10,000 missile operations annually.
These operations "pose significant life-safety risk to boaters errantly entering" the area, where access is restricted by the Navy.
The report said that development could degrade wetlands in the area and contribute to beach erosion, a longstanding problem.
But Harter disagreed. He said the development could actually improve the wetlands by removing from production agricultural lands that have been draining pesticides into the wetlands. The plan urges the phasing out of much heavy industrial activity along Ormond Beach, he said.
He questioned whether the marina would increase the number of boaters exposed to the base's dangers.
Harter said that boating activities are expected to increase in the county even if the development is not built and that boaters are discouraged from entering the 35,000-square-mile sea test range by clearly marked designations on all nautical maps.
He dismissed the Navy's objections about the development's potential for noise and safety hazards. Harter said that only roads and open spaces would be built in the "accident-potential zone."
Harter added that Baldwin questions the accuracy of the Navy's noise measurements around the airport. He said a noise consultant hired by the company had traced excessive noise to jets operating at a higher than necessary power level. He also pointed to the Navy's own plans to re-assess noise levels around the airstrip.
"As we go through the detailed studies required of all developments, I think the solutions to all the concerns will become evident," Harter said.