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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

County to Consider 72,000-Acre Greenbelt

Open space: Fillmore wants assurances that jails, airports or dumps won't be built on the site. Supervisors will review proposal Tuesday.

September 30, 2000|DAVID KELLY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 72,000-acre swath of avocado fields, citrus groves and open land between Fillmore and the Los Angeles County line will become Ventura County's newest and biggest greenbelt if approved Tuesday.

The deal has been in the works for more than a year and if passed by the county Board of Supervisors will dwarf the region's current largest greenbelt, a 34,000-acre patch between Fillmore and Santa Paula.

Since approving the plan in November, Fillmore has been seeking assurances the county won't build jails, airports, gravel pits or dumps in the 13-mile unincorporated area the city hopes will remain an agricultural buffer to development. The county agreed to subject any building proposals for the site to "enhanced" scrutiny.

Fillmore officials also insisted the greenbelt be approved as an ordinance and not a resolution. Ordinances are more difficult to change than resolutions, Fillmore City Councilman Roger Campbell said.

Campbell said the greenbelt will help assure that this part of the Santa Clara Valley remains rural.

"It's one of the major protections we can do to make sure development doesn't happen between us and the county line," Campbell said. "It's a substantial buffer."

Kathy Long, the county Board of Supervisors chairwoman, said it would also send a strong anti-development message to the Newhall Land & Farming Co., which plans a 70,000-resident community nearby in Los Angeles County and owns 15,000 acres in Ventura County.

She said the greenbelt goes "hand and hand" with the growth-control SOAR laws that require a public vote before development on farmland can occur.

"It's another layer of protection," Long said.

If the new farm zone is approved, Fillmore will be surrounded by 106,000 acres of open space, or about 165 square miles.

"That will be the largest greenbelt protection in the county," Fillmore City Manager Roy Payne said. "We are drawing a very firm line in the sand on where our growth can occur and where it can't."

He said farmers and ranchers living on the land had mixed emotions over the greenbelt but meetings with city officials have helped smooth things over.

Aside from Fillmore, other communities are going forward with plans to create greenbelts and limit 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 in Moorpark and Thousand Oaks, the county hopes to buy the 2,700-acre Tierra Rejada greenbelt separating the two cities.

The Fillmore-Piru greenbelt ordinance says its purpose is protecting agricultural land and preserving open space. Attempts to use the land for anything other than this will be heavily scrutinized "up to and including denial," the law reads.

The measure lists eight projects most likely to face such scrutiny: airfields and landing strips, communication facilities, farm labor housing, government buildings, jails or prisons, police stations, mining, waste treatment and disposal facilities.

Long, who represents the Fillmore area, said the ordinance offers more teeth than previous greenbelt resolutions that are easily changed.

"It's not just a handshake anymore, it's much stronger," she said. "It is an ordinance and it will need a super majority vote to change it--that's four votes not three."

Campbell, who will soon step down from the Fillmore City Council after 16 years, said the greenbelt would be a happy legacy for him.

"Of all the battles I fought, I want this one last thing," he said. "I want to retire knowing that land is protected."

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