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Ventura County Considers Golf Course, Theater EIR


Amid strong opposition from conservationists, Ventura County supervisors Tuesday will consider approving an environmental study that would allow developers to transform a county park near Camarillo into a 16,000-seat amphitheater and 18-hole golf course.

Trumpeting the project as a way to generate an estimated $750,000 annually within five years of operation, county parks officials say the entertainment venue will go a long way toward creating one of the only self-sufficient county parks systems in the nation.

But the project won't play out without a few sour notes.

Opponents continue to chastise the project and the effort to turn public parks into moneymakers, even if it means paving over open space.

"It is really going to boil down to what is good public policy," said the Environmental Defense Center's Carla Bard, one of the project's most outspoken critics. "If the board wants to, it can ram it through and disregard any environmental consequences in the end."

County officials, however, say the environmental document and a recent redesign of the project have done much to minimize impacts to the 370-acre park's environment and surrounding areas.

Supervisors will consider the project during a 1:30 p.m. public hearing Tuesday at the County Government Center in Ventura.

Even if the board approves the environmental report and accompanying use permits, the project still faces stiff scrutiny from federal agencies charged with protecting the nation's wetlands and endangered species.

An endangered plant--the Dudleya veritye--thrives in the park's rocky outcroppings where few other plants dare to grow. The problem, however, is the lichen that also manage to survive there serve as a crib for the protected plant's seedlings. And lichen, plant biologists say, hate car exhaust.

Further, there are strict county fire codes requiring that roadside brush be cleared. But some of the planned roads and parking lots are so near the wetlands that simply chopping back the brush can be a federal offense.

County officials believe they can meet the fire protection codes without impacting wetlands. And if they can keep the impact on wetlands below three acres, officials can qualify the project for a fast-track permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Currently, the wetland impact stands at 2.998 acres.

"Sometimes it does come down to inches," said Blake Boyle, deputy director of the county Parks Department. But it's too close for the Army engineering corps, which is requiring the county to provide more data proving the impact level.

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