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Ventura County

Proposal for Car Plant Withdrawn

Applicant had sought to build near wetlands in Oxnard. Environmental activists hail the move.

January 23, 2003|Sandra Murillo | Times Staff Writer

Developers for a proposed $25-million car-processing plant in south Oxnard have withdrawn their application with the city, officials said Wednesday.

The move comes after months of debate over the location of the proposed Pacific Vehicle Processors plant.

The company wanted to convert a vacant 38-acre parcel south of Hueneme Road into a plant for preparing imported vehicles before they are shipped to dealerships throughout the region. Activists opposed the project, saying it would have an adverse effect on the nearby Ormond Beach wetlands.

On Wednesday, environmentalists celebrated their victory.

"We're ecstatic," said Janet Bridgers, director of Earth Alert in Oxnard. "It shows that the people of Oxnard believe in protecting their wetlands and we've finally been heard."

For months, a group of environmentalists and residents had demanded that Pacific Vehicle Processors conduct an environmental study. Anticipating a lawsuit, the company relented last September. But it warned that Volkswagen, the company with which it had contracted to process cars, might not be able to wait until the review was finished.

And that's what happened, said James Kilpatrick, the company's vice president of marketing and development.

"The project we had planned had a deadline and we didn't meet that deadline," Kilpatrick said. "Volkswagen felt they couldn't wait any longer, so they extended their contract with another company in San Diego. To make a long story short, the city of Oxnard has just lost out on a lot of jobs."

Ormond, which includes some of the county's largest remaining tracts of undeveloped coastline, is home to a variety of rare and endangered birds.

Pacific Vehicle Processors has maintained that the site is not a wetland and is far enough from the coast that development would not harm wildlife. Kilpatrick said the company's action doesn't mean it has totally given up on the contested area.

"This certainly is a big disappointment to us," he said, "but this does not discourage me from pursuing other developments there."

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