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Foes of Road-Widening Plan Win a Round

Transportation: Panel delays approval of environmental report until concerns over project between Camarillo and Oxnard are addressed.


Opponents of a $15.5-million road-widening project between Camarillo and Oxnard won a victory this week as a county board delayed approving an environmental report and asked county planners to address many of the residents' concerns.

Residents along the two roads that may be widened--Santa Clara Avenue from the Ventura Freeway to Los Angeles Avenue and Central Avenue between Santa Clara and Vineyard avenues--said the projects would increase traffic, noise and air pollution and lower property values.

"We want to know that our quality of life will be in some form protected. We want to know that we will not be stomped on," said Solidad Trevino, a Nyeland Acres resident.

The Environmental Report Review Committee unanimously agreed Wednesday it could not approve the draft environmental impact report that would lead the way for the projects' start until the panel had more details on the county's general plan--the legal underpinning for the road projects.

That plan, written in 1988, includes some projects but not others, such as the contemplated widening of California 118 by Caltrans.

Consequently, critics say, the county road projects are not considered in conjunction with those devised by other agencies. As a group the projects produce cumulative environmental effects, including noise and truck traffic, that need to be considered and possibly mitigated before projects such as the one in unincorporated Nyland Acres can be approved.

Board member Gerard Kapuscik said the panel decided not to approve the document because it needed to be sure all regulations were followed.

"The question before us is did [the draft environmental impact report] foresee the worst case impacts . . . and whether previous environmental studies are still valid for the project we have today," said Kapuscik, who represents the Solid Waste Management Department.

Trevino said hundreds of trucks already rumble down Santa Clara Avenue every day, shaking her house "so we feel like it's an earthquake."

Residents are concerned the widened corridor would only add more truck traffic. Community residents want to be included in the discussion on the widening, instead of being left to deal with the consequences when the project is finished, Trevino said.

"We are the invisible community," she said. "They haven't made a proper plan as to how people are going to be affected by these changes. This is part of the fragmenting problem."

By "fragmenting," residents are referring to their belief that county and state planners are widening roads piecemeal, and thereby avoiding a comprehensive environment impact report that would address the likely increases in traffic and development along the corridor between Moorpark and the Port of Hueneme.

Brett Tibbitts, a Somis resident who attended the board's last two meetings, said the Nyland Acres project is just one small step toward construction of a virtual highway through the Las Posas Valley. He said the roads near Nyland Acres could be improved by adding left- and right-turn lanes, instead of doubling the road.

"[Planners] are saying that four-laning will not increase traffic and I find that completely nonsensical," Tibbitts said. "I wish they [planners] would own up to what is going on, so we can have a public discussion and come up with some solutions like planning green belts. But we never get to have that discussion."

But Butch Britt, deputy director of public works, said there is nothing being hidden from residents.

"Their concern is that this is part of some greater project to create a corridor through the county. And it is that. It has been identified in the general plan as an improvement. There is nothing nefarious about it."

The committee also wants a written public response to the issues raised in the 15 letters it has received. Its next meeting will be Sept. 13.

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