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West Ventura County Focus

OXNARD : School District's Plan for Grove Questioned

October 22, 1994|MAIA DAVIS

Dealing a potentially costly blow to the Oxnard high school district, Ventura County planners are recommending that the county Planning Commission reject a district request to partition for sale a 27-acre lemon orchard behind the new Oxnard High School.

In a report released Thursday, planning staff members say the district's proposal violates county planning rules that forbid lots smaller than 40 acres in agricultural areas.

The commission will consider the case Thursday.

If it follows staff members' recommendation and refuses to recognize the orchard as a legal lot, the Oxnard Union High School District stands to lose the $2.5 million it paid for the citrus grove.

The district bought the orchard in 1992 as part of an 80-acre site on Gonzales Road near Victoria Avenue.

Although school officials needed only 53 acres for a campus to replace the existing Oxnard High School on 5th Street, the land's owner agreed to buy back the remaining 27 acres for the $2.5 million selling price if the district received county approval for the subdivision by Dec. 31.

District officials now say they are afraid of getting stuck with land they cannot use.

County planning staff members, however, have always opposed the district's move to build a school in an agricultural area, saying it will encourage development of surrounding farmland.

And Thursday's planning report showed little sympathy for the district. The district's plight is a "self-imposed issue," the report states, because the lemon orchard was already a lemon orchard when school officials bought it.

Also, the report continues, the school district could find some use for the grove. "The high school could establish a program within its curricula to encourage education, advancement, and appreciation of farming techniques and farm history of the region," the report said.

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