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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | THOUSAND OAKS

City Council Balks at Settling Lawsuit

January 15, 1998|ROBERT GAMMON

The City Council has put off a decision on whether to settle a $10-million lawsuit with a local developer, after some council members questioned the deal.

"I think it sets a bad precedent," Thousand Oaks Councilwoman Linda Parks said at Tuesday night's meeting. "It's one of the most frivolous lawsuits ever filed against the city."

Councilwoman Elois Zeanah agreed, saying she worried that if the city settles the suit with the Newbury Park Group it would encourage other developers to use litigation to circumvent the council's decisions.

The Newbury Park Group filed suit against the city last August, alleging the City Council had no legal right to scuttle its plans to construct a 90,000-square-foot movie theater complex and health club development at Newbury Road and Giant Oak Avenue.

Under the proposed settlement, the Newbury Park Group would drop the suit in exchange for the council agreeing to "fast-track" the development.

City Atty. Mark Sellers, who pushed for the pact, warned the council that a protracted battle could cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills. And the faster the council signs off on the agreement, he said, the less chance the Newbury Park Group will pull out of the deal.

"The city is really giving up nothing," said John Randolph Haag, an attorney for the developer. "This is really an example of trying to resolve an issue peacefully."

Fast-tracking means the Newbury Park Group could bring a new proposal to the council for a vote this year, without having to go through the long, arduous city planning process, Haag said.

He also promised the new development package would address some of the council's concerns about parking, cutting down oak trees and grading a hill behind the new buildings.

The settlement agreement stipulates that if the council rejects the proposal, the Newbury Park Group could sue again.

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