CAMARILLO — With its growing high-tech and retail industries and the planned arrival of a new public university, this city is enjoying one of the most prosperous and promising periods in its history.
But over the next few years, officials will face tough planning decisions and a pressing need for more affordable housing as the city nears build-out. About 2,200 agricultural and residentally zoned acres within the city that could be developed remain.
Who is best qualified to lead the city into the future--to ensure that growth remains balanced and services are maintained--is a question voters will have to answer on Nov. 7.
Four candidates, including one incumbent, are seeking two seats on the City Council. If Councilman Mike Morgan wins election to the Board of Supervisors, a third council seat would open.
The candidates agree on several key points. All advocate slow growth and oppose commercial passenger service at Camarillo Airport. All favor building a new library. And all want to lure more high-tech companies.
With little to distinguish them on the issues, the candidates are touting their individual experience and vision for the future.
The candidates include incumbent Councilman Kevin Kildee, 44, who is also a partner in his father's local clothing store; Don Waunch, 68, a former Marine and business developer for Northrop Grumman Corp.; Les Meredith, 70, a Realtor; and Carlos Cruz, 60, a former California Highway Patrol officer and a tailor.
As a businessman and a longtime community member, Kildee said he believes he is well suited to usher the city forward. He cites his past four years' record as an example of his leadership.
"It's important to focus on what we have done well," he said, noting the redevelopment of downtown and the high quality of schools. "I am diligent and hard working with a vested interest in this community."
Waunch said he is more committed to affordable housing than the other candidates. He said he would push to build 86 low-income units a year, the number recommended in the city's general plan.
About 700 of the city's 22,000 housing units are for low-income residents. The current median home price is $260,000; the median apartment rent is about $800.
"In order for us to approve a project we need to insist that developers build affordable housing," Waunch said. "The developer would just have to bite the bullet."
Waunch advocates an education campaign to inform the public about the benefits of affordable housing. He said an ideal place for housing to accommodate students of the planned Cal State University Channel Islands campus would be the downtown area, particularly along Ventura Boulevard.
He said the city needs to do more planning to prepare for the advent of the new university, which is scheduled to open in 2002 if enrollment goals are met. Waunch said there is a need for more businesses to serve student needs.
"The university will change the flavor of Camarillo quite a bit," he said. "We need strong initiatives to keep us in front of the changes that are coming."
If elected, Waunch said he also would work to get law enforcement officials involved early in the planning of new development, especially in crowded areas.
"We may be building more apartment complexes, and people will be clustered together," he said. "I want to maintain our good safety record by bringing them into the planning process early."
Meredith, who served on the city Planning Commission for 18 years, said one of his priorities will be to push for a new library to replace the structure that opened in 1973. The 16,000 square-foot facility has run out of shelf space.
The city wants to build a $20-million, 65,000-square-foot library, which would include computers and children's play areas.
The questions for the city are how to fund the project and where to build it. The city would probably have to contribute about $5 million, with the remainder coming largely from state grants, city officials said.
"It should be a priority," Meredith said. "If we knew for sure that we could come up with the money to build the facility, then we should move forward now. We are studying the situation."
A teacher and school administrator for 25 years, Meredith said that a proposal to transfer Camarillo's local high school to the Pleasant Valley School District is something that should be left to voters. Adolfo Camarillo High School is now part of the Oxnard Union High School District.
Although he opposed a local Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources growth-control measure approved by voters, Meredith said he would not favor rezoning agricultural land unless the benefits far outweigh the loss of farmland.
"I think there are better ways to go about controlling what you do within the county," he said.
Cruz said he entered the race because of fears about expansion of Camarillo Airport. His chief concern is the addition of commercial passenger service.
"If I become a councilperson, nothing like that will ever happen," he said.