Bennett calls for Farmont
water use review
by Kelly Feser Eells
The proposed Farmont Golf Course proved contentious the first
time around - with six years ago between proposal and approval
- and it appears this time will be no different.
Last October, the county's Planning Division circulated a Notice
of Preparation regarding its intention to order a supplemental
Environmental Impact Report for the golf course adjacent to Rancho
According to Management Assistant Pat Richards, staff was then
"in a fact-finding, data-gathering phase," soliciting
comments on "environmental
issues only," not the applicant's proposed project modifications.
Yet local environmental activists viewed the proposed modifications
to Conditional Use Permit No. 4588, "an approved but not
constructed 18-hole private golf club," as too significant
to warrant only a supplemental EIR. In fact, they - along with
a number of other vocal project opponents - are not convinced
that the first EIR (approved by the Board of Supervisors in 1993)
is up to par.
"In all likelihood," Richards then predicted, "this
will become a matter for the Board of Supervisors."
And so it has.
When approval of a contract authorizing preparation of a supplemental
EIR was brought before the board's consent calendar on Dec. 18,
Supervisor Steve Bennett called for postponement of the item
and it was subsequently pulled from the agenda, to be resubmitted
on Jan. 8. Pointing to the contract's scope of work, which makes
no provision for further analysis of the water aspects of the
project, Bennett said, "It simply makes common sense to
look at the water equation again since this is a substantially
One substantial difference proposed by the applicant, Intell
Development Corporation, is its request to change the use of
the property from an "approved private golf club" to
a public golf course, thereby increasing "the permitted
35 rounds of golf per day" to 130 rounds per day. Another
substantial difference is its request to eliminate Condition
No. 73 of the CUP, "Establishment of an (1,500-acre) Open
Bennett explained that, while the previous project had "won
approval by limiting water usage on the full 2,000 acres, essentially
dedicating nearly all of the water from the 1,500 acres to the
golf course," the potential loss of the open space offers
"no assurance regarding overall water usage."
Indicating that the first EIR had been prepared with dated information,
he added, "It is important that we use more current historical
data as we analyze the impacts on this sensitive watershed."
Another significant aspect of the proposal, noted Bennett, concerns
the steelhead trout, which had not been declared endangered when
the project was first approved. Though Gary Barnett, president
of Intell Development Corporation, said (the newly designated
status of the indigenous fish) "really isn't an issue; the
stream bed's dry most of the year, anyway," Bennett disagrees.
When the board revisits the approval of the contract on Tuesday
(Jan. 8, 9:30 a.m.), he plans on asking it to expand the scope
of the supplemental EIR to include an analysis of the impacts
of pumping groundwater for golf course irrigation.
"This issue," Bennett said, "is important because
it affects all the other water users of Ventura River groundwater
basin, as well as the steelhead trout and other natural species
in the river."
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
Back to the news