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West County Issue / Sammis Co. Proposal : The Sammis Co. has presented a proposal to develop a residential community on 250 acres of farmland off Pleasant Valley Road in Camarillo. Is this plan better than a previous proposal, which met with substantial community opposition, to build a factory outlet mall on 87 acres of farmland?

August 03, 1992

Michael Morgan, Camarillo city councilman

If it's passed in the future, I'd have to live with it, but I'm not in favor of converting agricultural land at this time. There is not an inalienable right to develop. I think that the project that's presented so far seems to be very intense for the area. It doesn't incorporate just 87 acres but 250 acres, so it's grown from a small mass to a large mass. The Sammis Co. talked about the schools being paid by Mello-Roos bonds, which are becoming less desired than they were initially because you're actually passing on a hidden tax to the folks in that area. I'm just wondering who will pay for the community center, parks, lake and trails. We've had a significant amount of other projects that would have more seniority than this one, so a lot of the land would sit fallow for many years. That brings me to my point--the loss of prime agricultural land. How can you justify the continued denigration of our most valuable asset in the United States?

Jim Turner, Spokesman, Sammis Co. Citizens Advisory Committee

I think that it addresses a lot of issues and concerns that a lot of people had for the original plan, such as traffic, pollution and ecological concerns. It's a project that Camarillo could be proud of. It gives the children of Camarillo, when they grow up, the ability to afford a home here, which is not much of a possibility for young people who are graduating from college and high school now. This will give them an opportunity to remain in the city they grew up in. It's also visually a very beautiful project. That was one of the original concerns when the shopping mall was proposed. From an economic standpoint, the proposal would increase employment, which is badly needed in Camarillo with the recent loss of employers. It will increase the tax revenue the city is receiving for that piece of property. It will become a model community for all of Southern California.

William Torrence, Member, community goals committee

No. I think it's worse. If the people weren't happy with the 87 acres of agricultural land going out of production, they definitely aren't going to be happy with 250. The goals committee has already made the recommendation not to change zoning from agricultural land on any property unless it was beneficial to the people, not just for the benefit for the developer or if there's no other land available for the same project. We don't need more housing. We're fighting to save agricultural land in Ventura County. Developers are depleting it at the rate of 1,500 acres per year. There's only 97,000 acres left. The Sammis plan calls for lots only 32 feet wide. The architect drew plans for lots that probably were used in San Francisco in the early 1900s. They're also promising a school. They can't put a school there because it's in the flight path of the Point Mugu Naval Air Weapons Station. That's a promise they can't fulfill.

Joe Ahearn, Camarillo real estate agent

Yes. I did not feel that the initial proposal was appropriate, because it did not furnish the community with a lot of community-oriented services, such as the school, the amphitheater, the Olympic-sized swimming pool, and the bike and jogging trails. The revised project also has a lot more open space. The community input is obvious in the new plan, because it's very responsive. It also dilutes the high density of the plan for the Foster property, that 33-acre triangle at the bottom of the grade that is zoned industrial. The Foster property's approved specific plan calls for 560,000 square feet of industrial, office and retail buildings. In the new plan, all of those buildings are eliminated, and there's just housing on that parcel. The residential development that exists south of the Ventura Freeway has been somewhat abandoned. They have not been provided with any community service amenities.

Michael Mishler, Member, Camarillo Farmland and Creek Preservation Committee

No. It still has a major flaw in that it's using prime agricultural soil for development. In my opinion, this is an even worse proposal, because it's affecting more agricultural land. At this time in Camarillo, we have no need for it. We already have plenty of land in Camarillo that has been zoned for other purposes, including residential. If we continue only allowing 400 residential units per year to be built here, that means we would have a land bank to last us over 10 years. It's not that I'm against allowing more people into the city. It's a question more of trying to balance the resources we have all across Ventura County. Agriculture is our main industry. A lot of the concepts the Sammis Co. was presenting were very nice. If this proposal were being presented for a site which did not contain prime agricultural soil, and our residential land bank inventory was lower, this would be an interesting proposal.

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