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Ventura County

Camarillo Pushes for Bigger Library

City services: Talks are underway to buy 10 acres of farmland on Las Posas Road for the $20-million project. State funding may cover part of costs.

April 04, 2002|SUZIE ST. JOHN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The city of Camarillo is moving ahead with plans to construct a $20-million public library on the last plot of undeveloped land on Las Posas Road.

Assistant City Manager Larry Davis said negotiations are underway for the city to purchase 10 acres of farmland between Fieldgate Drive and Lewis Road. Strawberries are grown on the site.

"We are in the appraisal mode right now," Davis said. "No price has been mentioned by either party yet."

The parcel is owned by Ohio Teachers Retirement group. A spokesperson for the organization could not be reached for comment.

The location was one of 18 that the city was considering for the proposed 65,000-square-foot library. The alternate sites included both previously developed plots and other farmland.

"All were in the center part of town, but this one stood out because it was the most accessible to everyone," said Bob Burrow, the city's director of community development. "It's near other public facilities, it's an adequate size and there were no major restrictions to overcome."

Sandwiched between two churches, the property is also close to the local sheriff's station, St. John's Pleasant Valley Hospital and a large residential area, including three new developments on Flynn Road that also used to be farmland.

"There's still a lot of land in Camarillo and in the county that's very productive in agriculture," Davis responded when asked about the area's diminishing farmland. "But sometimes public needs and benefits are moved to the forefront."

The need for a new library was brought to light two years ago when the city hired San Francisco library consultant Kathy Page to do an assessment for Camarillo after passage of Proposition 14, a statewide bond measure that has generated $350 million for the construction of libraries.

"It was determined that we are a very undersized library for our community," said Sandi Banks, Camarillo's library manager.

The current facility on Ponderosa Drive was built in 1974 and is 15,000 square feet. The new library would be more than four times that size. Plans for the facility include a large children's section with a storytelling room, a concession area, a community room and a bookstore.

"It's all very exciting," Banks said. "It will be so nice to have so much space. We're really very crowded now."

Architect Stephen Finney of the Glendale-based firm of Charles Walton and Associates showed residents preliminary designs for the new building Tuesday.

"The drawings were very favorably received," Finney said.

"The City Council had already given us the direction to design the library in a more traditional Spanish colonial scheme and there was only one dissenter in the group who wanted something more modern looking."

With the designs in the works and a site selected, the only remaining obstacle is money. The city plans to submit its application for a share of the state bond money in June. Davis said the project's environmental impact report was completed this week and will be forwarded to the City Council for certification April 24.

The city expects to know by year's end if it qualifies for the state funding, which would cover 60% of the total cost. Camarillo would pay the remainder.

"The city's portion will come from the city's general fund and hopefully the county will kick in some funds," Davis said.

"Once the bond is approved, it will be six to eight months for the architects to finish their drawings. Hopefully we can start building in January 2004."

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