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Bigger Planning Commission Suggested

Government: Oxnard Councilman John Zaragoza says city would be better served by expanding the panel to seven members.

September 10, 1997|CHRIS CHI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

OXNARD — Saying that the city needs more input on development issues, City Councilman John Zaragoza suggested Tuesday expanding the Planning Commission from five to seven members.

Zaragoza said many development proposals that go before the commission pass by a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Albert Duff usually the lone dissenting voice.

But with Oxnard's residents increasingly concerned about growth issues, Zaragoza said the commission needs a more diverse membership. He said the addition of two members would give it balance.

"What I hear from the public is we need more diversity on the Planning Commission. This will give us broader thoughts and that's exactly what the public wants," he said,

Zaragoza did not immediately provide details on how the suggestion would be implemented, and commissioners were not available for comment. The suggestion came as council members voted to meet with the commission Oct. 13 to discuss the city's land-use policies.

With a number of major development proposals making their way through Oxnard's bureaucracy, city leaders are hoping to strike a balance between farmland preservation and the need to build more housing.

On Tuesday night, they reviewed a report that outlined ways to deal with land use--and the steps Oxnard officials could take vary dramatically.

They could decide not to make any changes to Oxnard's 2020 General Plan, its blueprint for future growth. That would effectively kill numerous controversial developments under consideration, including the Southeast Plan. That proposal calls for the city to redraw the General Plan and annex 815 acres of farmland, on which 3,165 homes and an agriculture theme park would be built.

City officials could also take steps to make farmland development more difficult, with planning tools such as urban growth boundaries. Such boundaries, the report states, would divide land earmarked for development from greenbelt areas and remain in effect for 20 or more years.

Finally, officials could discuss the development proposals already under consideration and select the ones most needed to meet future growth.

At its current pace, Oxnard's population is projected to grow from its present 157,000 to about 179,000 in 2020, the report states.

At Tuesday night's meeting, preservationists continued to decry the loss of farmland near Oxnard.

"The Southeast Plan is exactly what we don't need," resident Richard Krinsky said. "It's the wrong thing for Oxnard."

In addition to the Southeast Plan, Oxnard city officials also are considering a plan to convert 300 acres of farmland near the River Ridge Golf Course into homes and expand the course.

The report was drawn up to help city leaders prepare for the joint meeting with the Planning Commission.

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