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Point / Counterpoint

Should the National Park Service participate in the Cheeseboro Canyon land swap? : FOR FRED MAAS

May 29, 1990

Fred Maas, 32, is a developer and vice president of Potomac Investment Associates, a Maryland-based company seeking the land exchange to enable it to build an access road to a proposed 750-house and golf course development on Jordan Ranch in eastern Ventura County. Maas, who specializes in community and government relations for the company, moved in 1988 from the Washington, D.C., area to Westlake Village, where he lives with his wife, Elizabeth, and their 7-month-old daughter, Katherine Claire.

Q. Why should the federal government approve the land exchange with your development company?

A. There are benefits at several levels. First, with the new proposal that involves Mr. Hope's properties in the Santa Monica and the Santa Susana mountains, 80% of his property--5,700 acres--would be in public ownership and open space in perpetuity.

At a time when development pressures are enormous in Southern California because of the number of people who are moving here and the scarcity of land, it is truly incredible that we are able in one fell swoop to put that vast quantity of land in public open space. We think it is a hard offer to turn down. Anytime you are able to get 5,700 acres for 59, I think responsible government officials should be willing to take a look at it, as they are here.

Second, the road, as we've designed it, has much less impact on the neighboring communities than roads that could be built through other access points to our property.

Q. Why would the road you have proposed be less disruptive than other roads you could build if the land exchange is not approved?

A. I don't want to be in a position of saying, "If this, then that," because that might seem like a threatening posture. But anyone who has ever been to Jordan Ranch can see that there are a

number of other access points. Old Agoura, the community just west of the proposed road, has a very rural feel, and any road that would require going through it obviously would change the character of that community.

We have an access up through China Flat we could use, and obviously that would have a devastating effect on the most sensitive area of our property. Certainly that option was not preferable for us or for the conservationists.

Q. Could Jordan Ranch be developed if the land swap is not approved and you are not allowed to build the access road?

A. Absolutely. The general plan for our property would yield about 14 160-acre ranches or ranchettes, or about 28 80-acre ranches. That would require dissecting the most sensitive areas of the property. There are those moderate people in the environmental community who believe that the effect of 28 or 14 large ranches, which entirely bisect Jordan Ranch with no dedication of open space, has much less public benefit than a plan which is well thought out and well planned and which makes available 47% to 50% of its area for public open space.

One of the problems with the large ranch design is that the ranches will typically be fenced. That brings that particular large parcel of 2,500 acres or so out of any potential corridor for the movement of wildlife through the mountains.

Ranches would also create long-term development pressures. What happens in the year 2010 when homeowner 13 of the 14 homeowners tries to subdivide his property? Real estate environments change over 20 or 30 years.

Q. If your Jordan Ranch development proposal is approved, what efforts will be made to preserve oak trees, wildlife and other natural resources that now are abundant on the property?

A. In terms of sensitivity to the environment, I think our vision is to have a project that will be a model for all development here in the Los Angeles area.

We've done a massive redesign of the golf course so that we would not impact the Palo Comado Creek and the wetlands in the area. The creek will be moved only in two places, and in both of those cases, it is to save oak trees. Wildlife in and around the golf course will be minimally impacted. We are doing a massive oak tree restoration replanting effort.

Also, the public ownership of China Flat would be a key to all of this. China Flat has been on the National Park Service acquisition list for 20 years. We've come up with a proposal that will preserve that forever. So I think, again, what we are proposing is really responsible and would hope to serve as a model for environmentally sensitive development in Southern California.

Q. Yet development at Jordan Ranch would result in the destruction of animal and plant habitat, would it not?

A. Those things will be fully explored in the environmental impact studies being done for the National Park Service and for Los Angeles and Ventura counties. We believe that virtually any impact created by our project will either be designed around or mitigated against.

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