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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Land Deal Offers to Protect 180 Acres of Open Space in Thousand Oaks

Council: More than 140 housing units would be transferred from the Western Plateau to other areas.

October 20, 2000|JENIFER RAGLAND | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

THOUSAND OAKS — More than 180 acres in the western part of the city long coveted by open-space advocates would be spared from development under a plan set to go before the City Council on Tuesday.

Councilman Andy Fox, who has been negotiating with landowners Shapell Industries to acquire the Western Plateau since February, announced the proposal Thursday. The deal--involving Shapell, the city and developers of the Dos Vientos subdivision--calls for transferring 147 housing units, which have been approved but not built, from the Western Plateau to other residential areas in the city.

The open space overlooking Hill Canyon--worth about $150 million--won't cost taxpayers anything, Fox said. Shapell officials last week began the development process by submitting an application to city planners.

"It has long been in the city's best interest to actively pursue acquisition of the Western Plateau to put it in permanent open space as opposed to standing around doing nothing and daring the developer to build on it," Fox said.

Environmentalist and resident Paul Nicholson, who was involved in the fight against the city's proposed golf course in Hill Canyon, said the deal "sounds good."

"I'm happy the Western Plateau is saved, but I still need to know the details of the costs," he said.

The 147 housing units would become mostly condominiums and apartments near in-progress residential developments in the Dos Vientos subdivision, Fox said. About 20 2,000-square-foot homes would be added to a Shapell development near Rancho Conejo and Ventu Park.

As part of the agreement, Miller Bros.--one of the Dos Vientos developers--would donate land in a commercial area of Newbury Park to the YMCA. The nonprofit organization had previously planned to build a facility at the end of a residential street in the neighborhood, Fox said.

Part of the city's leverage in the land deal was the fact the Western Plateau would have been difficult to develop, requiring environmental studies and mitigation because of endangered plants on the property, Fox said.

The area, west of the Rancho Conejo Open Space, earlier this year was selected as the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency's top priority for acquisition.

It is also home to a variety of wildlife, including mountain lions, deer and bobcats, according to the Conejo Recreation and Park District. If approved, the land will add to the city's 14,000-acre ring of open space.

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