Bennett sounds warning on
by Kelly Feser Eells
Preventing urban sprawl and preserving open space are much
more than good ideas to Supervisor Steve Bennett.
The co-founder of Ventura County's Save Our Open Space and Agricultural
Resources initiative has long taken such issues to heart. As
does the county's Local Agency Formation Commission board, which
But he knows it will take more than heart to oppose an upcoming
ballot measure that, if approved, "will dramatically affect
the entire county," and Ojai, Santa Paula, East Ventura
and Fillmore, in particular. In November, Santa Paula's 10,000
registered voters will be asked to decide if they should overturn
their city's S.O.A.R. boundaries - each city has its own - to
make way for a massive development proposal. Though "Santa
Paula's S.O.A.R. opposes this," Bennett knows it will take
the fund-raising skills of a countywide S.O.A.R. coalition to
mount an effective defense.
"This has been flying under the radar screen," he said,
"this" being the proposed development of Adams Canyon:
5,413 acres of Santa Paula outback, extending to the base of
Sulphur Mountain Road.
"Just (annexing) Adams Canyon would double the size of Santa
Paula," a city of 4.54 square miles. "The thing that's
most newsworthy for Ojai; well, are people even aware of this?
This thing could swamp Ojai in terms of traffic."
The Fagan Canyon Expansion Area, 2,173 acres of land abutting
Adams Canyon and the city, is already approved for development.
Adams Canyon, though originally included in Santa Paula's General
Plan, was officially "removed" in November 2000, when
voters set boundaries for urban growth. Rancho Santa Fe resident
Arnie Dahlberg, who has owned the property for 32 years, has
since partnered with Pinnacle Development Group of Scottsdale,
Ariz., whose plans for Adams Canyon include 2,250 homes, two
hotels, and 150,000 square feet of commercial/retail development.
Bennett points out that an existing access corridor along Highway
150, at the north edge of the property, "dumps into Upper
Ojai." Technically, the newly-christened "Ranch at
Santa Paula" project could result in "2,000 new homes
being built in Upper Ojai."
The Pinnacle Group maintains that extending the city's curb line
to include Adams Canyon, as their "Revitalization of Santa
Paula" initiative proposes, would yield significant citywide
benefits, including a projected additional two to three million
dollars in annual tax revenues and the creation of some 900 additional
Tom Tomlin Associates, a Los Angeles-based public relations firm,
announced in its last published newsletter ("Recent Developments,
Winter 2002") that it had been "retained for New Business:
Tom Tomlin Associates will conduct a political campaign and a
consensus building effort to support" the initiative. It
further reported that "TTA has put together a team consisting
of political consultant Afriat Consulting Group, election law
attorneys Reed & Davidson, who will write the initiative,
and Progressive Campaigns, a national signature gathering firm."
Tom Tomlin Associates identifies itself as "...one of the
leading organizations of its kind, specializing in consensus
building; creating, developing and maintaining community support
for a real estate project within the sphere of influence of the
But, as Bennett indicated, the proposed development would affect
communities countywide. "The developers have budgeted one
million dollars for the campaign alone. We (the SOAR Committee)
have to raise enough money to counter with a credible campaign."
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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