The Westlake Village City Council and a developer reached an agreement last week under which the council will approve Westlake North, the largest development in the city's history, in exchange for a package of concessions the builder valued at $31.7 million.
The keys to the agreement were pledges by the developer, Westlake Village Associates, to preserve the town's golf course and to reduce the height of the project's tallest office buildings to four stories.
After two evenings of public hearings that ran past midnight, three of the five City Council members said they would vote to approve the project at a meeting next Tuesday. The residential and commercial development would be built on 129 acres of vacant land north of the Ventura Freeway and east of Lindero Canyon Road.
"I am personally compelled to vote for the project as it has come into focus in the past two days," Mayor Franklin D. Pelletier said. Councilmen Kenneth E. Rufener and Irwin A. Shane said they would vote for the project.
Councilwomen Bonnie Klove and Berniece E. Bennett said they needed time to decide, but Klove said: "I'm very happy with what I heard tonight."
Westlake North would include 250 condominiums and more than 1.4 million square feet of commercial space, with office buildings, a hotel and a shopping center. The four-story height limit is a departure from the two-story limit in the city general plan.
In return, Westlake Village Associates, a firm run by Daniel K. Ludwig, would contract with the city to:
Pay nearly $6.5 million for road improvements, in addition to giving up $2.9 million worth of land for road purposes.
Pay the city $3.5 million, which could be used for a new library and other projects, such as storm drains.
Build within Westlake North a four-acre park, with soccer and softball fields, viewing stands, parking and lighting.
Guarantee for 200 years the preservation and maintenance of the developer-owned Westlake Village Golf Course and its driving range.
Pelletier said the road improvements, such as widening the Ventura Freeway interchange at Lindero Canyon Road, are needed to accommodate an unavoidable increase in future traffic from other projects outside the city. Three offers from other investors to purchase the golf course from Westlake Village Associates made the guaranteed preservation of the course imperative, he said.
Pelletier did not seek reelection this year, and Shane was defeated. They leave office Dec. 6 when James E. Emmons and Douglas R. Yarrow are seated.
Emmons and Yarrow had been critical of the project during their campaigns, but that was before the developer's concessions were made public. After the hearing, Yarrow said he could support the project, and Emmons said it was "moving in the right direction."
Westlake North would be built on the last large piece of vacant land in the planned city, which was incorporated in 1981. The horseshoe-shaped property surrounds the Valley Oaks Memorial Park cemetery. Compared to Thousand Oaks and Agoura Hills, Westlake Village has a relatively small commercial tax base, which the Westlake North development would broaden.
The developer's original proposal was for 1.5 million square feet of commercial space--including two six-story buildings--and 400 condominiums. Before the hearings Wednesday and Thursday at Westlake Village City Hall, the firm cut its requested building height to five stories, the number of condominiums to 250 and the total commercial square footage by 6%.
"It's the biggest thing this city has ever seen or ever will see," said James B. Henderson, a 22-year resident.
Many of the speakers at the public hearing, which was attended by an overflow crowd, said five-story buildings were not a fair trade for the golf course, which some said the developer was using as "a shotgun to our heads."
"Four- and five-story buildings on one side of the freeway more than negate the golf course on the other side of the freeway," resident Allyson Hoare said.
On Wednesday, Westlake North negotiator Charles H. Fry clung to a five-story height limit, but on Thursday, he won council support by coming down to four stories and by adding the driving range to the plan to preserve the golf course.
"Many people are feeling a lot better about the project if they were there last night," Henderson said of the meeting. "There was negotiating going on right in front of God and everybody. . . . It's probably about as good a deal as the city is going to get."