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Boating Center Revote Planned

In February, the Coastal Commission rejected the project for Channel Islands Harbor, citing inconsistency with the site's public works plan.

June 05, 2004|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

Seeking to reaffirm an earlier action, the California Coastal Commission is expected to vote next week on whether a boating and instruction center proposed for Channel Islands Harbor is permissible under Ventura County planning guidelines.

Coastal commissioners contend they already voted 6 to 4 on Feb. 19 that the marine center cannot be approved unless Ventura County first amends the harbor's public works plan. The 18-year-old plan guides development at the picturesque marina near Oxnard.

At the commission's meeting Wednesday in San Pedro, commission members will be asked to reaffirm their February vote by adopting a "finding" that the two-story, 19,000-square-foot building is inconsistent with the 1986 planning document.

But Ventura County officials argue that the Feb. 19 vote was ambiguous and that the time to clarify the commission's position has passed. As a result, a majority of the county Board of Supervisors contend the project was approved by default.

County lawyers informed the Coastal Commission of the supervisors' position in April and board Chairman Steve Bennett sent two letters asking commissioners to support the county's stance. But until the request for a finding appeared on the commission's agenda, there had been no official response, Bennett said.

Bennett said a majority of supervisors maintained the county had a right to build the center. Supervisors see it as a source of marine education and sailing lessons for the county's schoolchildren and a potential tourist draw that would help reinvigorate the flagging harbor area.

"One of the problems we have at the harbor is this constant shifting of positions," Bennett said. "It's not a healthy way to make improvements."

Residents near the harbor have attacked the location of the proposed center as potentially harmful to the environment and a trigger for more traffic, noise and trashing of beaches.

They want the supervisors to pick a site away from beachfront residences on the east side of the marina. But sailing experts have said that because of prevailing winds, the western location selected by supervisors is the safest spot to teach novice sailors.

Despite the objections of opponents, a majority of the Board of Supervisors voted in favor of the project in December. A citizens group has since filed a lawsuit to try to stop the project on environmental grounds, and residents have vowed to continue their fight before commissioners.

Supervisor John Flynn, whose Oxnard-based district includes the harbor, initially championed the boating center, but has since changed his mind. Flynn said he has come to believe that his board colleagues should send the project "back to ground zero."

"We need to review very carefully the public works plan and have plenty of public input ... before we go ahead with anything," he said.

Coastal commissioners, meanwhile, say they make their decisions based on law and precedent. Commissioner Pedro Nava, who voted against moving forward with the center in February, said the panel's earlier actions did not reflect judgment on the merits of a boating center.

"We made no decision on the need for a boating center or where it should be placed," Nava said. "All we were saying is there is a procedure we think ought to be followed, and it wasn't in this case."

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