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Santa Paula Project Advances

City planners approve a development of 2,155 homes in Fagan Canyon. Foes vow to show up in force at council hearing on the plan next month.

November 23, 2005|Fred Alvarez | Times Staff Writer

Santa Paula planning commissioners have approved what would be the city's largest housing development -- 2,155 homes, with accompanying parks and schools, in a citrus- and avocado-studded canyon.

The commissioners approved the project Monday night. Proposed by Dallas-based Centex Homes, it would cover about 2,000 acres in Fagan Canyon, one of the last large developable areas in this cash-strapped Santa Clara River Valley community.

The development eventually would generate about $2 million annually in taxes and other revenue for the city, according to projections by Santa Paula and the developers.

"I think this is an opportunity for the community and the citizens of Santa Paula to realize much-needed housing and much-needed benefits," said Rick Bianchi, director of community development for Centex Homes' Los Angeles/Ventura counties division. "I think we have found a way to really help the city pull itself up by its bootstraps."

The project, on the drawing board since 2003, is set to go to the City Council for a final hearing on Dec. 6.

Project opponents say they will be out in force for the hearing, continuing a months-long fight over the size of the development, which they argue would diminish the quality of life and increase traffic and air pollution in the city.

Santa Paula real estate agent John Wisda heads an opposition group attempting to put a measure on the ballot that would require voter approval for any development over 80 acres that necessitates a change in the General Plan. If the council approves the development, Wisda said his group would then try to qualify a second ballot measure aimed at reversing that approval. "This is a proactive step by people who say we want to control growth in our community," said Wisda, adding that he and others against the project favor no more than 1,200 units in Fagan Canyon.

"A lot of people in town have a lot of anxiety over this project," he said.

The Centex project would be built on about 800 acres, with an additional 900 acres set aside as open space. The development would create 290 units of affordable housing.

Plans call for the development to be built in phases, with construction beginning in late spring or early summer of next year and completed by 2014.

Designed as six neighborhoods, the project would include community parks, two elementary schools and 25,000 square feet of retail space. It would feature about 50 acres of parkland and a network of trails connecting the neighborhoods and leading to the surrounding open space.

The development also would provide a Future Farmers of America site for agricultural education.

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