Ormond Beach might just as well be called Irony Beach.
The largest remaining stretch of undeveloped beachfront in Ventura County, it is home to some of the county's most fragile wetlands and to some of its heaviest industry. Surrounded by a paper mill, a recycling operation and a gas-fired electricity generating plant, it nonetheless provides habitat for a number of rare species.
Decades of great plans and notions for it have come to naught, bogged down by environmental concerns and financial setbacks.
The fact that there is still an undeveloped Ormond Beach to debate is largely to the credit of the Ormond Beach Task Force, a group that has toiled for years to reach a consensus on how best to develop the area. Its members represent a spectrum of government agencies, environmental organizations and business leaders.
The city of Oxnard had agreed in principle to spend $5.1 million to acquire 309 acres in the area in a joint venture with the Metropolitan Water District. The water district wants 50 acres of the site to build a desalination plant decades from now. It is in the process of buying the property for $10.2 million from a now-bankrupt developer that had proposed constructing 5,000 luxury homes on the site.
The city's investment would guarantee it a voice in how the sensitive area is eventually developed. The hottest current prospect for the site is a film production complex announced in April.
The $90-million Film Factory is envisioned as a 117-acre complex of sound stages and other facilities that would enable independent filmmakers to produce movies at the site from start to finish. The unidentified investors behind the project would commit about $2 million to restore adjacent wetlands environmentalists have long sought to protect.
The latest plan, with its absence of residential development and prospect of preserving nearly 100 acres of wetlands, excites even some of the staunch environmentalists who have defended the area for years.
The city of Oxnard is wise to keep as much control over the site as possible. But it is too soon to rent searchlights for the grand opening of the Film Factory. Caution has served Ormond Beach well thus far. The city should closely examine all possible impacts of this proposal before pushing it forward.