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Give Ormond Beach Its Due

January 09, 2000

When the Oxnard City Council on Tuesday again turns its attention to the long-running dilemma of what to do with Ormond Beach, it will have two proposals to guide it:

* In June the city invited a panel of development, environmental and financial experts from the nonprofit Urban Land Institute to make an intensive weeklong study of the area. Their report offers exciting ideas for solving the decades-old question of what to do with this unpolished gem, Ventura County's largest undeveloped stretch of oceanfront. Its most startling suggestion: Stop viewing the 300 acres of wetlands as an impediment and instead treat them as a valued centerpiece for a coordinated mixture of homes, businesses and natural areas.

* A similar view is reflected in a proposal offered in August by the Ormond Beach Task Force. The product of six years of work, this plan would greatly restrict development and ensure farmland, open space and wildlife habitat are preserved.

The most significant difference between the two is whether housing should be built south of Hueneme Road, an area where several endangered species exist side by side with some of the county's noisiest and dirtiest heavy industry. The ULI plan says it can be done--if the city buys and relocates some of the worst nuisances; the task force plan says keep the housing north of Hueneme.

Even if ULI's suggestions prove feasible (and affordable) we foresee no end of headaches if housing is allowed so close to this caldron of contradictory uses.

Most important, though, is the need for the city to appoint one person to take charge of this crucial issue. Many jurisdictions are involved; many private parties and environmental groups have an intense interest in what unfolds here. A strong manager must be designated to take charge of the cacophony of voices and bring them into some sort of harmony.

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