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Decision on North Park Village Moves a Step Closer to the Ballot

Moorpark residents could get to vote on the development in a January special election.

June 17, 2005|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

After four years of planning and more than 20 months of public hearings, the Moorpark City Council moved closer this week to sending to voters the question of allowing the building of 1,680 residences and a 2,100-acre nature preserve.

At its meeting Wednesday night, council members directed city staff to answer questions about preparing ballot statements for a special election in January and report back at their Sept. 7 meeting.

The voluminous environmental impact report for North Park Village was certified June 1, and during four hours of discussion Wednesday the council reviewed final details of the gated subdivision's general and specific plans and the zoning changes needed to allow it to be built.

Among the last-minute revisions was getting the developer to pledge as much as $400,000 toward preserving wildlife corridors in the Santa Susana Mountains near the Ronald Reagan Freeway.

"Make no mistake, I don't support this project. I think the liabilities of this project far outweigh the benefits," said Mayor Patrick Hunter, who also mentioned his support for the city's open space protection measures known as SOAR that require such developments to be decided by the electorate.

"I'm going to be vocal in my support for this project," said Councilman Clint Harper, who with Hunter negotiated the project's details. "This is going to be the capstone project in our community. Anyone living nearby will see their property values go up."

Kim John Kilkenny, a vice president of North Park Village LP, the San Diego-based firm behind the project, said after the meeting that he felt the council was satisfied with the plan.

The partnership intends to spend the next seven months promoting the project, which would include a 2,121-acre nature preserve, a 52-acre artificial lake and swimming lagoon, about 30 acres of improved parks, and dedicated sites for a public school, a fire station and an astronomical observatory for the community college.

The developers, who have spent about $2 million to get their plans to this point, have agreed to provide property and fees to the Moorpark Unified School District valued at $76 million and intend to spend $2 million more providing a 650-space parking lot for Moorpark College in a land swap to provide access to North Park Village.

The deal requires spending $25 million to provide a freeway offramp to serve the development and the college, paying $100,000 annually to maintain the nature preserve and payments of more than $22,000 each to 21 nearby homeowners until the offramp is complete.

Kilkenny originally asked the city to schedule a special election in September but agreed to January after opponents said that they wouldn't have sufficient time to notify the public about increased freeway traffic, construction disruptions for neighbors and massive grading necessary to transform into home sites the hilly area now used mostly for cattle grazing.

He said his firm had initially supported a September election not because of any anticipated low turnout but "because we did not want our measure to compete for public attention on the November ballot."

"In Moorpark, there's not that great a differential between special elections and general elections," he said. "Moorpark is a relatively affluent, highly educated community, and residents typically show up to elections."

The fees that the developer must pay to compensate for extra traffic, additional police and fire protection, and other effects of creating the upscale community are expected to add $70,000 to $80,000 to the purchase price of each of 1,500 residences. Kilkenny said prices were originally expected to start around $600,000, but increased construction costs and numerous amenities added to the project would push prices higher.

Along with homes selling at market rates, the partnership would build 90 affordable apartments for seniors and 90 homes for low- and very-low-income families, with prices starting at $104,000.

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