Planners give out awards, variances
By Jesse Phelps
Minus two members, chairperson
Tucker Adams and Ynez Arce, the Ojai Planning Commission met
for its regular meeting Wednesday night to decide the fates of
local projects and dish out some honors.
Commissioner Paul Blatz ran the meeting and handled the presentations
as design specialist Neva Williams, landscapers RRM Design Group
and architect Pete Ehlen received awards for their outstanding
work on the Arcade Plaza renovation of the past year.
Williams was the project manager for what Blatz termed "one
of the most challenging projects the city has ever undertaken."
RRM provided design plans, including the rock and brick work
abundant throughout the plaza.
Ehlen was the architect responsible for the mission-style public
rest rooms that blend seamlessly into the overall plaza design.
In his presentation to Ehlen, who brought his grade-school daughter
Heather with him to accept the award, Blatz said with a smile,
"I've given out a lot of awards but I don't think I've ever
given one for a rest room building."
Following the presentations, the commission reviewed four requests.
The first, an architectural review for a property located at
502 E. Oak St., passed unanimously. Joan Roberts of Coldwell
Banker Property Shoppe, representing new owner Patricia A. Cluchey,
told the commissioners of her client's efforts to clean up what
had been "eyesore," and they took staff's recommendation
to allow for some setback variances on the condition she create
more open space on the undersized lot.
Similar exceptions were made for Williams, who found herself
back before the commission less than an hour after receiving
her award. She plans to construct a two-story barn, studio, carport
and storage facility combination building on her property near
Ojai Valley School on El Paseo Road.
Planners expressed everything from concern to kudos regarding
Williams' buiding design, which will be built next to, but not
to match, her classic adobe house. Commissioner John Mirk, who
was ultimately the lone dissenter, said he wished he'd seen the
designs during a concept review.
But Commissioner Craig Brown said he'd walked through the lot
when it was for sale some years ago and was impressed with Williams'
design for the addition. "I thought there was no way to
add on (to the house)," Brown said. "But you've kind
of come up with a way."
Another applicant, Derek Swezey, applied for a variance to the
rear setback requirements on his lot for a pool he's building,
adjacent to a fire road. The commissioners had an easy time with
this one, since the road creates a 40-foot buffer between the
pool and the next property. Swezey's request was unanimously
The other major item of the night concerned the Ojai Farmers'
Market. Cynthia Korman, who runs the show, looked to renew her
conditional use permit for the location on Matilija Street in
the public parking lot. She was unanimously approved. The conditions
of her use of the lot essentially dictate that she must focus
on locally grown items that don't compete with the wares of Ojai's
boutique merchants. In special cases, such as merchants with
Mother's Day merchandise that may not be grown in a garden, she
may request staff approval at the planning offices. This was
a change from the old rule, which stated that she get approval
from the commission itself.
The meeting went quickly, lasting less than an hour and a half.
Those who attended were home in time to witness the final "American
Idol" tally. While votes were split almost down the middle
on that issue, it was Ruben Studdard who walked off the winner,
despite what Mirk, Blatz, Brown, or any member of the commission
might have felt about his two-story physique.
The Ojai Valley News
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