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California Briefing / Los Olivos

Residents oppose tourist attraction

July 21, 2009|Steve Chawkins

Residents of the Santa Ynez Valley have banded together to oppose making a tourist attraction out of Michael Jackson's former Neverland estate.

While the owners of the 4-square-mile ranch have not formally proposed developing it, they have not ruled it out, raising alarms among neighbors in the rural area of vineyards and horse properties.

"We get mixed messages," said Bob Field, a spokesman for Never!, a new group that claims the support of many community organizations. "We want to resolve this thing in the valley, between neighbors, and not in front of the county or, heaven forbid, a judge."

Zoned for agricultural uses, Neverland lacks public water and sewer systems and sits on a narrow road five miles from a state highway.

Rumors of transforming it into a Graceland-like destination have circulated since Jackson's death. Field said that Colony Capital, the private equity firm that owns Neverland, has been vague about the ranch's future and has fueled speculation by hosting 150 prominent residents for dinners at the ranch and handing out caps that say "Neverland 2009."

Colony Capital declined comment.

-- Steve Chawkins

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