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Ventura County

Moorpark Soon to Join Country Club Set

Like Westlake Village and Simi Valley, the city will boast its own upscale golf facility, to be surrounded by $1-million homes.

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

Joining its larger neighbors, Moorpark will become the latest east county community with a country club -- being built as the focal point of an exclusive neighborhood of upscale homes.

"It's like a coming of age for the community," said Conejo Valley Assn. of Realtors President Peter Greer. "Westlake has Sherwood, [Simi Valley] has Wood Ranch and we've got our country club, with nice homes, vistas and the sort of things we can look forward to in future development."

Although the clubhouse won't open until fall in Country Club Estates at Moorpark, Greer said that "a country club atmosphere" has already started to develop around town. He thinks it symbolizes a step up in the reputation of Ventura County's youngest city.

"It's so much different from what's been developed so far in Moorpark, it's created a bit of a stir," said Greer, who manages a Troop Real Estate office in Moorpark. "It's had a real positive effect on people."

The 20,400-square-foot clubhouse will include a 150-seat restaurant and bar, banquet seating for 300, meeting rooms and a golf shop.

Behind the country club is the city's first golf course, 18 holes designed by Peter Jacobsen, a touring professional since 1977.

When an additional nine holes are added late next year, the semiprivate course will meander through the 655-acre community on both sides of its main thoroughfare.

Mayor Patrick Hunter voted against the project because of questions about the initial developer, but he now welcomes it.

"If you were interested in this type of housing, you would have had to move outside the city," Hunter said. "We are now able to accommodate move-up buyers."

These are not the only $1-million properties in town. But Country Club Estates is the first tract of semi-custom homes with prices beginning at $930,000 and, with available options, topping out at more than $1.3 million.

Countywide, homes in this price range represented a mere 2% of the total sold last year. In 2002, only 401 homes out of 17,775 sold for more than $900,000, according to John Karevoll, an analyst with DataQuick Information Systems.

In Moorpark, the median price of a home was $350,000 last year, $25,000 more than the countywide median.

Although Karevoll said the high cost of homes in County Club Estates should not, by itself, cause a dramatic spike in the average home price in Moorpark, such high-end housing can be fairly lucrative for a city.

In addition to an up-front developer payment of $3 million, an additional $2.25 million in payments scheduled and several planned donations of open space and improved land, Moorpark will also receive more than $19,000 in mitigation and in-lieu fees for each home sold.

Construction of the residences, which range from about 4,000 to more than 5,800 square feet, began early last year, and the first families moved in Sept. 1. To date, 66 of the homes, with four-car garages on lots averaging a third of an acre, have been sold.

Craig Messi, senior project manager for the developer, Pennsylvania-based Toll Bros., said most of the initial buyers were Moorpark residents seeking a more exclusive neighborhood.

One such homeowner is Pat Leyden, a broker associate at Troop Real Estate who moved with his wife, Mary, into a five-bedroom model at Country Club Estates after living in another pricey Moorpark neighborhood.

"We love it up there," he said. "It's far enough away -- kind of on the outskirts of town, but still within the city limits. It's close enough for the day-to-day shopping needs but far enough away to feel like you're in the country."

That's just the reaction Toll Bros. had in mind, said Messi, who compares this development to something one might see in Santa Barbara County's Santa Ynez Valley. The project will have a maximum of 216 homes on fewer than 200 acres, with twice that much land devoted to the golf course and open space.

"There's a lifestyle that we're trying to reproduce here, that ranch style of living: people who want the ambience of a rural atmosphere but still want to be close to town and civic amenities," Messi said.

Along with requiring each homeowner to plant a minimum of five mature trees in the frontyard, Toll Bros. maintains a mini-orchard of about 20 acres of orange and avocado trees in the common landscaped areas.

Although grading will soon begin on the final 121 lots, Messi said his company still only will build one home at a time, up to about 40 a year.

Toll Bros. bought out the project in late 1998 after the original builder backed out. The company continued a lawsuit against the city by the previous builder that sought to adjust certain performance deadlines and building requirements. The dispute was, for the most part, finally settled this month.

Toll Bros. adjusted parts of the project -- eliminating nine holes from the original golf course proposal, for example -- to create a more environment-friendly community.

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