By a narrow margin, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors has decided that developers who have proposed building two large subdivisions in eastern Ventura County may proceed with environmental impact reports that will cost a total of $450,000.
The board voted 3 to 2 this week to allow the studies for the Ahmanson Ranch and Jordan Ranch subdivisions. Together, the projects would bring 12,000 new residents and 240 acres of commercial, office and retail space into the rolling hills near Thousand Oaks.
The reports, funded by developers, will be completed by McClelland Consultants, of Ventura.
Supervisors Susan K. Lacey and John K. Flynn voted against the proposal, saying they were concerned that the projects would generate air pollution and traffic and eliminate green space.
"These issues just aren't going to be mitigated in a satisfactory way, no matter how many environmental impact reports you do," Flynn said. "For me to vote on the EIR was just another vote for the commitment of the project. It would be hard for me to face the developer down the road when the EIR comes back, when I already have these questions in my mind."
Supervisor Madge L. Schaefer, who represents Thousand Oaks and the surrounding area, referred to Tuesday's action as housekeeping and said it would not affect the county's decisions on the subdivisions.
"This is a perfunctory action which just says, 'Give us more information,' " Schaefer said.
The vote followed a preliminary report that indicated that county staff members were concerned that the projects would worsen air pollution, benefit affluent instead of middle-income buyers and set a precedent in using green space.
The projects are far from approved. Although the board approved the commissioning of the reports, it must hold public hearings on them before deciding whether to allow the projects.
But county planners say the subdivisions would deviate from longstanding county guidelines that attempt to keep development within city limits.
It could also set a dangerous precedent for other developers who want to proceed with their own plans in land zoned for open space, some planners said.
Ahmanson Land Co. of Irwindale has proposed building 3,000 homes and apartments and two golf courses on 5,477 acres north of Agoura Hills.
The firm would build offices, high-tech industries, retail businesses and hotels on 240 acres. It would leave 3,018 acres for open space and 196 acres for parks.
Potomac Investment Associates of Gaithersburg, Md., has proposed 1,152 houses and apartments and a PGA Tournament golf course on a 2,308-acre tract west of the Jordan Ranch project.