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Plans for 3,165-Home Project Are Dropped

January 08, 1998|CHRIS CHI

City officials have declared a proposal to build 3,165 homes and an agriculture theme park on farmland as dead, now that school officials have dropped plans to pay for completion of an environmental study.

In a letter reviewed by City Council members Tuesday night, Oxnard School District attorney Mitchel B. Kahn withdrew the district's request to complete the Southeast Plan environmental report.

The district had hoped to finish the environmental review, because it wants to build an elementary school within the agricultural area earmarked by the development proposal. Approval of the development project's environmental report would have negated the district's need to launch an expensive study of its own.

Opponents, however, said letting the school district complete the study would keep the project lurching ahead. The development proposal called for the Pacific Ag Expo park and numerous housing tracts to be built after 815 farm acres outside city limits were annexed.

But with the school district's withdrawal, the project is considered dead, said Joyce Parker, the city's planning and environmental services manager.

Added City Councilman Tom Holden: "Once and for all, this puts to rest the concern, the legitimate concern, that a project of 3,000 homes and 800 acres has a chance of moving forward."

The Southeast Plan drew fierce opposition from residents and environmentalists, who said it would help destroy the city's semirural nature.

Kahn said Wednesday that community opposition was a factor in the school district's shift. The district still wants to build the school, but will start over with a study limited to the new school plan.

Meanwhile, the issue of farmland development remains urgent in Oxnard.

Activists are moving ahead with plans to put the Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources--or SOAR--initiative on this year's ballot. The initiative would require voter approval of farmland development projects.

At Tuesday's meeting, Joe O'Neill, an Oxnard SOAR organizer, said the group wants Oxnard City Council members to vote next week on whether they support putting the issue on the ballot.

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