Bowing to the will of a unified neighborhood, the Camarillo City Council has rejected a proposal to build a large gas station, carwash and restaurant complex in the southeastern portion of the city.
Proposed by Oxnard gas station owner George Paymard, the 19,426-square-foot station was to be located on a 1.9-acre parcel near the intersection of Camarillo and Petit streets, immediately south of the Ventura Freeway.
After nearly three hours of testimony--much of it in opposition to the complex--the council voted 4 to 1 Wednesday to reject the project. Councilman David Smith cast the lone dissenting vote.
The matter came before the council after the Planning Commission delivered a 2-2 vote. City policy allows applicants to appeal tie votes, which are recorded formally as a denial, to the City Council.
"My gut says this isn't right for this neighborhood," Councilman Stan Daily said. "This is a city of people, and we have to put people first."
Residents of a nearby housing tract, one of the city's oldest, said the project would cause heavy traffic along Petit and present a safety hazard to pedestrians. Other concerns were centered on noise, nighttime glare and increased air pollution.
"In our mind, this is clearly an inappropriate use of the parcel," said Michael Shorb, one of the neighborhood residents who helped galvanize area opposition. "We believe that if this project was approved, both our property values and our quality of life would be negatively affected."
But according to Marc Charney, an attorney representing Paymard, the complex is a reasonable use for a parcel that carries a zoning designation of light manufacturing.
"My client and I are disappointed in the council's decision. We felt this station represented a light, non-intensive use of the space," Charney said.
He said his client has not decided whether to sue the city over its decision.
Agreeing with Charney was Smith, who said the heavy traffic, nearby industrial zoning and presence of the Ventura Freeway have already caused damage to the small housing tract, believed to have been built in the 1940s.
"I do not believe the neighborhood will be worse off if this project is approved," Smith said. "In my opinion, the root problem of this neighborhood is the freeway."
Councilwoman Charlotte Craven, who voted against the gas station, warned the nearly two dozen protesters that although this project was voted down, the zoning of the parcel may someday allow a developer to build a project that is equally disliked by the residents.
"I'd like to caution you people that this property is zoned for light manufacturing," she said. "We could be looking at a Home Depot or another cineplex down the road. Either way, it seems likely that it will be developed someday and you may well not like what goes in there."