Purchase puts end to golf
by Kelly Feser Eells
Like many an Ojai Valley resident, Jurgen Gramckow was nothing
short of delighted when the fate of 1,566 acres of fertile, undeveloped
land adjacent to Rancho Matilija, the so-called "Farmont
property," was at last decided.
The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, after more than a decade's
worth of hands-on negotiating between two different developers
and the county of Ventura, is now that land's official steward,
having successfully gotten it legally decreed a "conservation
easement, in perpetuity."
Such easements are designed to permanently exclude certain activities,
like commercial development or residential subdivisions, from
occurring on privately owned properties rich in agricultural,
forest, or historic resources. Legally binding, conservation
easements give their holders, the OVLC, in this instance, the
responsibility of monitoring and enforcing the property restrictions
imposed by the easement but do not absolve the property owner
from traditional "ownership" responsibilities, i.e.,
property taxes and upkeep.
The erstwhile Farmont parcel, however, included another 400-plus
acres of land, land once earmarked and approved for a private
golf course. And that's where Gramckow comes in: The Rancho Matilija
resident and (Oxnard's) Southland Sod Farms proprietor is those
400 acres' new owner.
"Well, I do live on land almost adjoining this property,"
he said. "And I am in the farming business. But I bought
it from the standpoint of preserving a lifestyle, a certain quality
of life. This whole (Rancho Matilija) area, it has a farming
tradition that goes back to the turn of the century."
Gramckow explained that, while there have been experiments with
walnuts, citrus, avocados and the like, the land is best suited
for growing oat, hay and alfalfa.
"Still," he laughed, "I'm not going to be doing
any intensive farming" on the property. "I make my
profit in sod; what I plan on being is a 'gentleman farmer.'
Eventually, I'll build a house there."
One thing Gramckow won't be doing is building a golf course.
"I see this an opportunity to turn back the clock, enjoy
the scenery. Bottom line? This (purchase) is about quality of
life. The Rancho's gone back into farming. End of story."
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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