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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Board Backs 72,000-Acre Greenbelt

Open space: Supervisors unanimously give initial approval to protect farmland from the county line to Fillmore. It would be region's largest such area.

October 04, 2000|MATT SURMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

What would be the largest greenbelt in Ventura County's history received initial approval Tuesday in a unanimous vote by the Board of Supervisors.

Despite concerns from two speakers over details, supervisors agreed that it is time to spell out how they will protect a 72,000-acre swath of farmland stretching from the Los Angeles County line to Fillmore.

"This greenbelt is unique for Fillmore," Supervisor Kathy Long said. "This is to protect agriculture as an industry and open space as a resource."

The greenbelt would not forbid building in the area, but would require the county and the city of Fillmore--which has also given initial approval to the ordinance--to inform the public of any planned changes to boundaries, which is not the case with the county's six other greenbelts.

Any proposed change would require a four-fifths approval by county supervisors and the Fillmore City Council.

The plan met with some opposition from residents who worried that the ordinance would not be protective enough.

Farmer Dwight Moore, who supports the greenbelt, worried that it could be subject to the whims of the City Council and supervisors. He also questioned some of the boundaries.

He said Measure K, which would allow building on Goodenough Road and on the land east of Fillmore's fish hatchery, could put the final border in doubt, since it conflicts with the greenbelt boundary.

"We'll have three new city councilmen," he said. "Do we know where they will put us?"

Fillmore Councilman Roger Campbell said the ordinance would have "plenty of teeth" and assured the audience that the hatchery would not be affected.

The plan also drew concerns from Tom Papanos of PanAmSat, a satellite company that has about 20 antennas in the Fillmore area. He said he is worried that the plan could halt his company's local business, even though its antennas are hidden in a valley.

"I'm restricted already," Papanos said. "This would be another restriction. It's another roadblock. It could mean months of delay."

Supervisors have said the greenbelt decision would send a strong anti-development message to Newhall Land & Farming Co., which plans a 70,000-resident community nearby in Los Angeles County and owns 15,000 acres in Ventura County.

A spokeswoman for the company said the greenbelt would have no effect on the firm's plans.

"We've always said we have no intention of developing the Ventura County property," Marlee Lauffer said. "We do not necessarily agree it's the best policy, but it has no impact on our company."

If the new farm zone ultimately goes through as expected, Fillmore will be surrounded by 106,000 acres--or about 165 square miles--of open space.

"Don't forget us," Fillmore Mayor Evaristo Barajas joked. "We'll be out there somewhere."

Both the supervisors and Fillmore City Council will consider final approval Tuesday, but the greenbelt borders still have to be approved by the Local Agency Formation Commission.

Other communities are also moving forward with plans to create greenbelts and limit urban sprawl.

Oxnard has moved to save a 4,600-acre zone created years ago in an agreement with Ventura. In Ojai, officials want to save 10,000 acres for orchards and pastures. And the county is looking into buying chunks of the 2,700-acre Tierra Rejada greenbelt, created in 1982 and separating the cities of Simi Valley, Moorpark and Thousand Oaks.

The idea for a Fillmore greenbelt began in 1989 but was met by opposition by a group of farmers and ranchers. The Ventura County Farm Bureau resurrected the idea in 1997. Measure A, a county advisory measure approved by voters in 1998, showed that voters would support such restrictions.

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