MOORPARK — Detailed plans for Hidden Creek Ranch, a massive housing development that goes up for a key city vote tonight, offer an array of provisions to counter concerns about the project--including a proposal for a freeway bypass that could ease Moorpark's traffic woes.
A 46-page development agreement for the 3,221-home project will go before the Moorpark City Council at a 7 p.m. public hearing. If council members approve the agreement, the developers' next step would be to seek county approval to annex the 4,300-acre site to the city.
Council members said they are pleased with provisions in the development agreement for affordable housing, a 20% reduction in grading and preservation of more than 2,000 acres of open space. They also are pleased with a proposal for a California 118 bypass.
The bypass, long considered a pipe dream, has been discussed as a way to reroute the truck traffic that often clogs the city's core along New Los Angeles Avenue. It could resemble an inverted U that would loop around the north part of town.
Although the developer, Messenger Investment Co., would not have to provide all the money for a bypass, the agreement would not allow the company to build more than 1,000 homes until it put together plans for the roadway. The developer also would be limited to 2,000 homes until construction of the bypass began.
The developer would be giving the city $20 million for traffic improvements, a sum that could be applied to the bypass, for which cost estimates have ranged from $23 million to $80 million.
Councilman Chris Evans called the proposed bypass "the major benefit of the project."
"We have created a nexus between the progress of their development and the progress of the completion of the 118," Evans said. "Personally, I believe removing 4,000 trucks from Los Angeles Avenue is a significant enhancement to our quality of life."
Mayor Patrick Hunter, the only council member who opposed the project in a vote July 15, said he will not attend the meeting because he will be out of town.
He said, however, that he urged the council to adopt stronger wording to make sure the open space promised by the developer would stay intact over the years.
"It's a big issue, because the retention and preservation of open space is something we spent a significant amount of time on," he said.
The development agreement also includes changes made to satisfy Councilman John Wozniak, who conditionally agreed to back the project last month.
Wozniak, who could not be reached Tuesday, asked for and received provisions to reduce grading by 20%, to ban grading of land for homes and golf courses simultaneously and to create a buffer zone of open space between the project and Simi Valley.
The agreement also provides that the developer could build no more than 2,000 homes before constructing a road connecting the project to California 118 if traffic through the intersection of Collins and Campus Park drives was not flowing smoothly.
Councilman Bernardo Perez, a strong supporter of Hidden Creek Ranch, said the concerns Wozniak brought up with the developer resulted in a stronger development agreement.
"I think these recent changes show the value of the process," Perez said. "These are a result of council member Wozniak's concerns, and the developer has responded to them quite adequately."
Perez said he was especially pleased with provisions for 365 units of affordable housing, as well as the bypass and a $7,000-per-unit fee that the city would be able to use at its discretion.
The city would also receive $4,000 per unit to improve traffic and $4,800 per unit for community services, along with additional fees for the library, schools, parks, public art, street lights and landscaping. Moorpark also would get money for each golf course built and for each acre of commercial development.
Perez said that people often tell him they don't want the city to be as big as Thousand Oaks or Simi Valley, but that they also want services like those of the bigger cities. That, he said, is why Moorpark has a need for some of the money Hidden Creek Ranch could provide.
"They say, 'How come we don't have a nice swimming pool like Simi Valley, or a nice library like Thousand Oaks, or a teen center like Thousand Oaks?' " he said.