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Officials Hear Both Sides of Redevelopment Plan

Land use: Supporters and opponents testify on proposal to revitalize commercial corridors of midtown Ventura.


VENTURA — It was standing room only as residents, merchants and property owners turned out en masse at City Hall on Monday night--some determined to stop a redevelopment plan they say is misguided, while others were hoping for its success.

At a joint public hearing of the City Council and Redevelopment Agency, separate legal entities with identical members, more than two dozen people testified about a project city officials call a cleanup/fix-up campaign to revitalize the commercial corridors of midtown Ventura.

"Redevelopment has nothing to offer us," said Diane Underhill, who lives in the redevelopment project area. "The only thing that redevelopment holds for us--with its credit-card mentality--is public indebtedness and less money in the city's general fund for public safety, for city maintenance, for our schools."

Inspired by what she has seen redevelopment do for the city's downtown, resident Jill Martinez said she supported the plan.

"I am so excited about what has been done in downtown Ventura. . . . I can hardly wait for the next thing you do," she said.

After several meetings with neighborhood residents and property owners, the city softened rules that govern the redevelopment plan. The city gave up its rights to eminent domain, meaning the Redevelopment Agency can acquire property in the project area only through negotiation and not force. Participation in the plan is voluntary, and the agency increased the number of times it is required to notify those in the area, from one to three, in the event the plan is ever altered or amended.

"We gave them everything they wanted," David Kleitsch, the city's economic development manager, said before the meeting. During the public hearing, Kleitsch emphasized how participation in the project was voluntary.

The plan, which offers low-interest loans for property owners to make improvements, would use a portion of property taxes collected in the designated area through 2043 to pay for enhancing public and private properties, infrastructure and housing.

Boundaries of the midtown redevelopment area are East Main Street and East Thompson Avenue from Ash Street to Mills Road, and includes the Buenaventura Mall and portions of Loma Vista and Telegraph roads.

The Redevelopment Agency gave the plan preliminary approval Oct. 19 by a 5-1 vote. Councilman James Monahan voted against it, saying it had more support from city officials than the residents and businesses in the project area.

The council is expected to take a final vote on the plan Nov. 30.

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