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Moorpark Is 20 Years Old, Still Growing

Population has tripled in two decades and more housing is planned. The city will celebrate the July 1 anniversary with fireworks and parties.

June 30, 2003|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

Ventura County's youngest municipality plans several days of partying to mark the beginning of its third decade as a city.

Residents of Moorpark, which incorporated July 1, 1983, can kick off their Independence Day weekend earlier than usual at a 20th anniversary reception Wednesday at the regular City Council meeting.

The city's traditional July 3 celebration, on Thursday this year, will feature additional fireworks, a rock band and television personality Ed McMahon as the celebrity emcee.

Taking its name from a type of apricot once grown in the area, Moorpark has always saved money by commemorating the nation's birthday a day early, when pyrotechnics experts are less in demand and fewer conflicting public events are scheduled.

This year, the city will spend 40% more for its holiday celebration at Arroyo Vista Park. The event will include food vendors, children's attractions, a kids' red-wagon parade, a skydiving team and a 90-minute concert by Mickey Thomas and Starship, which traces its roots to the '60s group Jefferson Airplane. Activities begin at 4 p.m., and fireworks start about 9 p.m. The entrance fee is $2.

Although overshadowed in size by its east Ventura County neighbors, Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley, this community off California 23 and the Ronald Reagan Freeway has fewer crimes and a higher median household income, $97,841.

The city boasts a well-regarded community college and the Moorpark High School Academic Decathlon program, which has won countywide competitions in seven of the last 10 years and twice brought home the national title.

Moorpark is among the fastest-growing cities in the county. At incorporation its population was about 11,500 and now approaches 35,000.

"We realized we would grow at an incredible rate, but that growth has been fairly well-handled," said City Councilman Clint Harper, a physics and astronomy instructor at Moorpark College and one of the city's inaugural council members. "We have a low crime rate and very good schools. I'm quite pleased with the way it has turned out."

Growth probably won't slow down for some time. The council has authorized several developments, with more than 1,200 homes slated to be built and 835 units scheduled for city review, said Dave Bobardt, the city's planning manager.

Those numbers don't include the North Park Village project, which will soon face public scrutiny of its environmental impact report.

The proposed upscale development, on nearly six square miles, is a substantially modified version of the ill-fated Hidden Creek Ranch project. It calls for 1,500 single-family homes; 150 apartments; 64 acres of parks, including a 29-acre youth sports facility; and a 2,200-acre nature preserve around a 52-acre man-made lake.

Bobardt estimated that Moorpark's population will be close to 50,000 if North Park Village and the other projects are completed during the next 15 to 20 years.

Harper described the project north of the college as "probably our biggest planning challenge in the next two years."

A staunch critic of Hidden Creek Ranch, Harper initially suggested the revised project be built around a lake, which would create exclusive waterfront peninsulas containing several homes with price tags in excess of $2 million.

But everything depends on how well its developers handle environmental concerns and generate resident support at the ballot box. The project must be put to a public vote under the Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources (SOAR) initiative.

"It's either going to be wonderful or it won't be approved by voters," Harper said. "It has to be an exceptional project."

Meanwhile, many residents are preparing for Independence Day festivities and appreciating what they already have.

"As far as I'm concerned, Moorpark is a perfect place to live," said Leta Yancy-Sutton, the city's first mayor. "I wouldn't live anywhere else."

The council meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.

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