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Rose Expansion Proposal Clears Preliminary Hurdle : Retail: City reveals financial strategy to pay for freeway improvements and relieve traffic congestion arising from new development.


OXNARD — A city official gave a preliminary blessing Thursday to a proposed expansion of a Rose Avenue retail development, which environmental consultants say should not significantly add to the area's traffic congestion.

As part of the environmental document approved Thursday, city staff members also unveiled a long-discussed plan to pay for improvements to Ventura Freeway interchanges in the city, including the one at congested Rose Avenue.

The proposal comes after critics--including the city of Camarillo, which threatened a lawsuit earlier this year--protested Oxnard's push to continue development at Rose Avenue without also tackling the ensuing traffic problems.

Now Oxnard has proposed a policy to pay for enhancing city roadways, although its consultant on the Rose Avenue project said the retail center's expansion would not worsen traffic.

"I see the irony of it," said Jim Rupp, an attorney representing the city. "At least [we're] getting off the stick."

Richard Maggio, Oxnard's hearing officer, approved an often-delayed environmental document for a scaled-down second phase of Shopping at the Rose, clearing the way for the project's formal consideration by the city's land-use advisers next month.

If built, the complex would add almost 120,000 square feet of retail space. On Thursday, Santa Monica developer Stan Rothbart withdrew plans for an additional store of approximately 32,000 square feet at the center, in response to city concerns about increased traffic.

The second phase would be built near the existing 525,000-square-foot center and a recently constructed 47,000-square-foot Best Buy electronic store, which is set to open before the end of the month.

Rothbart predicted construction on the rest of the expansion could start as early as the first quarter of 1996.

Maggio dropped a condition requiring Rothbart's company to form a private assessment district to pay for an estimated $18 million in improvements at the Rose Avenue interchange of the Ventura Freeway.

Rothbart had argued against the requirement because the environmental impact report said the center's expansion would not cause significantly more traffic than now exists. Instead, Rothbart agreed to voluntarily join with his neighbors in forming such an assessment district, with the understanding that if the private sector takes too long, the city will create the district.

The City Council could act to form the district as soon as next month, officials said, with an eye to finishing construction of a new Rose Avenue interchange by early 1999.

To pay for needed improvements to the freeway interchanges, Oxnard proposes creating a bridge and thoroughfare fee, to be levied against developers based on the degree to which their property would benefit from the roadway enhancements.

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