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Moorpark's Desire for New Sphere Wanes

Planning: The cost of expanding city's influence over unincorporated areas gives officials pause. Council considers surveying residents.

March 11, 1997|DAVID R. BAKER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

MOORPARK — City officials have not given up on the idea of expanding Moorpark's sphere of influence, a move intended to give them more control over development projects just outside the city limits.

But at the prospect of spending tens of thousands of dollars on the proposed expansion, City Council members say they need to know whether residents think the idea is worth pursuing.

The council scheduled a special meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the proposal. And although council members say they have not yet decided whether to move forward with the expansion, several said their interest had cooled.

"I'm less enthusiastic about it at this point," Councilman Bernardo Perez said. "My major concern has been, and remains, are we really going to get what a lot of people want out of this--greater control."

The city's lack of control over developments in nearby, county-administered land led Mayor Pat Hunter to propose the expansion in January. Moorpark's sphere of influence currently extends no farther than the city limits, giving the council little say in the approval of projects outside the city.

The council had opposed several projects that recently won county approval, including an expansion of a gravel mine north of town and the construction of two golf driving ranges in the Tierra Rejada Valley.

"Some of the land-use decisions being made in the unincorporated areas adjacent to the city have a very direct impact on our quality of life," Hunter said.

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But in order to expand the sphere, the city would probably have to prepare an environmental impact report--a detailed document examining the proposal's effects on the local environment. Such reports typically take months to prepare.

Nelson Miller, Moorpark's director of community development, has told council members that the change would also require an amendment to the city's General Plan and the approval of the Local Agency Formation Commission. Even if the city hired a consultant to prepare all the needed paperwork, the city would also have to hire an extra staff member to manage the project, Miller warned.

City officials believe a sphere would give them some control on some projects, but even if a development fell within the city's sphere of influence, the county still would have ultimate control, according to county Planning Director Keith Turner.

Several council members said the degree of control the change would give them would help determine whether they vote to move forward with the idea. A final vote is not expected Wednesday night.

They also said they want to determine just how much the expansion would cost and how long it would take. And they want to gauge popular opinion.

"Do we have the backing out there to say we need to move forward with this?" Councilman John Wozniak said. "Or are we comfortable with the way it is, leaving things up to a roll of the dice?"

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