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Conservancy Makes Deal for Broome Ranch : Parkland: Officials will pay $4.2 million for the 640-acre site near Thousand Oaks. Area residents cheer the transaction.

July 28, 1993|CARLOS V. LOZANO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

State park officials announced Tuesday that the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy is purchasing the 640-acre Broome Ranch near Thousand Oaks for $4.2 million, far below what the owner had sought for the land.

The property, long coveted by park officials, represents a key acquisition because it serves as the gateway to an unbroken stretch of state and federal parkland that sweeps through Point Mugu State Park to the Pacific Ocean.

"This is one of the most gratifying acquisitions we've ever made," said Joseph T. Edmiston, executive director of the conservancy. "It validates a lot of hopes and dreams we've had for a long time. It's a fun one."

David Hardacre, an attorney representing the estate of George Huck, the current landowner, confirmed the purchase agreement.

"They got a steal," Hardacre said. "It's a wonderful day for the conservancy. Mr. Edmiston and his boys made a helluva deal. They did a helluva job for the state of California. Unfortunately, it was not so good for the estate."

Hardacre said the Huck estate, which owes millions of dollars to creditors and attorneys, was hoping to secure at least $5.5 million for the land to help cover all of its debts.

"But what can you do?" he said. "This is what the market will bear. That's the American way, right?"

Because the sale involves an estate, Hardacre said it must be approved by a probate court before the all-cash deal is completed. He said he was confident this would occur within the next 30 days.

Hardacre said it is possible during the interim period that the Huck estate could receive a higher bid for the land, but that this was very unlikely given the shaky real estate market and the specific conditions of the sale, in particular the all-cash provision.

"I'm sure the sale will go through," he said. "It's to everybody's advantage. Besides, the conservancy is the only game in town."

Thousand Oaks officials and residents cheered the news of the purchase agreement.

"That's fantastic," Councilman Frank Schillo said. "This is a big plus for the city. It should also be a big relief for people in Newbury Park concerned about growth in that area."

Newbury Park residents Diane Doria and Mike Dunn said they were thrilled that the ranch property, located southwest of Thousand Oaks, will be preserved as open space.

"I think it's wonderful," Doria said. "It will keep us the way we are, nice and open. It's great."

"This is tremendous," said Dunn, who has actively opposed development in the area. "It's like somebody found a gold brick in my back yard and said, 'Here, it's all yours.' "

Dunn said the purchase will go a long way toward "preserving the semirural heritage of the Conejo Valley," and proposed that officials with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy be honored with a parade down Thousand Oaks Boulevard.

Edmiston said that once the conservancy has acquired the property, it expects to sell a large portion of the tract to the National Park Service and possibly other agencies to help recoup some of the cost. The city of Thousand Oaks and the Conejo Recreation and Park District are also interested in acquiring slivers of the ranch for their own uses.

David Gackenbach, superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, said the Park Service would probably end up buying as much as half of the property.

He said once the conservancy purchase is completed, the federal government will conduct its own appraisal of the acreage it wants to purchase.

"Thank goodness for the conservancy," Gackenbach said. "This is a good example of how agencies working together can acquire parkland for the public."

Gackenbach said that the Park Service expects to spend roughly about $2 million for the land. He said the purchase would be made with money set aside but not used in the recent purchase of Bob Hope's Jordan Ranch.

"This is great," Gackenbach said of the Broome Ranch deal. "Now if we can just get some more money."

Earlier this year, the Clinton Administration had said that it did not plan to allocate any more money for parkland acquisitions in California in the 1994 fiscal year.

But on Tuesday a Senate subcommittee recommended $4 million be allocated for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The amount, which has already been approved by the House and is still contingent on final approval by the Senate, is less than one-third of the $13.2 million the recreation area received last year.

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