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Developers Seek OK for 1,050 Homes

Building: Proposal calls for converting 395 acres of farmland near the Ventura Freeway and Pleasant Valley Road. Controversial plan was rejected two years ago.


CAMARILLO — After failing to win city support two years ago, the owners of a 395-acre agricultural parcel are again trying to clear the way for a 1,050-home development that would be sandwiched between the Ventura Freeway and Pleasant Valley Road.

The City Council this afternoon will hear a staff report on the proposed Village at the Park, which calls for a 60-acre park, school, hotel, shopping center and church. The site runs south of the freeway from Constitution Avenue on the west to Lamplighter Mobile Estates on the east.

"This is potentially the most appropriate place for housing within the city because it's the last piece of farmland in that general vicinity," said Dennis Hardgrave, a representative for the developers. "It is not necessarily the best place for farming because of the incompatibility with housing in such close proximity."

However, one opponent said he fears that the development would further erode the area's semirural character.

"I'm opposed to any rezoning of agricultural land at all," said Bill Torrance, 82, a Camarillo resident instrumental in establishing the city's slow-growth policies. "I disagree with the plan to develop the entire Ventura Freeway corridor."

But several residents of the nearby mobile-home park said they welcome the project because of their concerns over the application of the toxic pesticide methyl bromide in the existing strawberry fields. The odorless gas is injected into the soil to cleanse it of insects.

Some homeowners along Calle de la Rosa, where houses abut the farmland, complained of health problems as well as about the dirt, noise and lack of privacy that comes with living near such acreage.

"I will hate to see the fields go, but I have never been so sick in my life," said Rachel Knight, 70, who described cramps in her legs, poor circulation and respiratory problems. "I feel like I'm being fed poison. I know the methyl bromide has affected me."

Others expressed conflicting views about the project, saying they enjoy the open space but are concerned about increased traffic, noise and crowding that would be generated by the new development.

"I like the idea of not having anyone live behind me and, if they put in the park, that might draw more people," said Cindy Riddle, 43. "I don't want people climbing over the fence into my yard."

Residents said one aspect of the project that they like is the addition of two stoplights at the entrance to the mobile home park. They said this would improve safety on busy Pleasant Valley Road, which would be widened under the development plan.

A private consultant hired by the city will lead the council's 4 p.m. study session at City Hall today, focusing on specific uses for the site. Officials will discuss whether rezoning is appropriate for the site, which borders the freeway on one side and light industry on another.

Some City Council members said they have yet to take a position on the project because they want to see a detailed traffic analysis of the area.

Councilman Mike Morgan said he is chiefly concerned that the property be developed to serve the population that most needs housing, including up to 5,000 incoming students at the Cal State University Channel Islands campus, set to open in 2002.

"If we let it go, and then the college develops, we've defeated our purpose to try and provide housing," he said.

Hardgrave said the project, which could break ground as early as 2002, does not include affordable housing specifically for students.

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