By Richard Lieberman
Ventura City Council will hold a meeting, November 30th and on the agenda will be Regent Properties proposed La Viera project. The project proposal describes 55 luxury homes to be built on 40 acres of the Mariano Rancho in the hills above Ventura. The planning commission after a marathon public meeting, recommended that the City Council allow processing to go forward. The project has drawn considerable opposition from neighbors and residents of the city. The council can accept or reject the Planning Commission’s recommendation. According to Jeffrey J. Lambert, Community Development Department Director, and “Even if the Council accepts the recommendation, the project would not come back before he council for possible approval until 2017.”
The Mariano Rancho property is owned by about 300 individuals from different branches of the Mariano family, which has owned approximately 4000 acres in the Ventura Hillsides for over 100 years. The Regent Properties plan will make use of 215.3 acres of the Mariano property. The current plan will utilize 40 acres for the development of the 55 luxury homes. The rest of the land approximately 175 acres will be designated open space and public access will be allowed. In addition Regency announced an agreement with the Ventura Hillsides Conservancy resulting in the donation of an additional 547 acres. This agreement will mean that an additional 722 acres of public open space would be created. The development will utilize only 5% of the total land.
Regent’s Daniel Gryczman President of Development, discovered Ventura and “Instantly fell in love, “Ventura views from the hillsides just cannot be duplicated”, said Gryczman. Little by little I began to understand the potential Ventura offers”, added Gryczman. The company claims that the economic impact to Ventura will create a net positive economic output generating $7,000,000 in revenue for the city. “Part of the plan is preservation of most of the property and open space, said Gryczman. “Our goal is not to move the development line higher up than any of the developments on either side of it.”
Regent Properties is a 25 year old real estate business, founded by Alan Kohl of Kohl’s department stores, it has developed luxury, and high end properties, throughout the Southwest.
The Mariano family has attempted to develop this property at least one time before. In 2002 Amy Forbes, Esq. represented the family as they began to focus on their alternatives for divesting themselves of the property. Representatives of the family approached the city with possible uses for the property that would make sense to the city and the land owners.
The land is designated in the City’s general plan for hillside planned residential, calling for four units to the acre. The property is located in the unincorporated areas of Ventura County, except for the 215.3 acres located within City limits.
In November 2002 voters rejected a proposal that would have allowed the development of 1400 homes utilizing 730 acres on the hillsides of Ventura’s midtown district and use 3,000 acres as a private Home Owners Association controlled open space preserve. This plan included land outside the city limits, which brought it under the Hillside Voter Participation Area. Opposition to the plan included SOAR (Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources) and the Ventura Citizens for Hillside Preservation.
Differing from the 2002 plan Regent Properties plan looks to develop only the land within the Ventura City limits, and develop just 55 homes. “We will build 55 homes period.” Said Daniel Gryczman. By limiting the development to the acreage located within city limits, the project will not come up for voter approval, but will be decided by the City Council.
Regent’s current plan calls for the relocation of two water towers placing them underground removing the eyesore, and the cost will be borne by Regent Properties according to Gryczman. The Ventura High School “V” will also be located and paid for by Regent.
Jeffery Lambert community development director added “that while the goal of the Hillside Management Program is to make sure that any development done on the hillside” is done with “as little disturbance to the topography as possible,” the city recognizes the need for executive level housing to attract new business.”
Lambert also added that the pre-screen application is like an “application to proceed, and work through the process” “There appears to be no public safety issues “and in fact the addition of these homes would make the homes below safer by adding modern fire breaks ,better drainage and a new emergency access road.
Opposition to the proposed development is substantial, proponents of the development are substantial as well. Both side have generated a virtual flood of email comments to the Ventura Breeze, below is a sampling of comments received:
“The proposed La Viera project is an excellent opportunity to fill the executive home void we have been experiencing for years.”
“Some of the neighbors are claiming the sky is falling, that this will be the next La Conchita or that the pristine beauty of our hillside will be destroyed. The problem with their arguments are that none of them are based in fact.”
There will be many more quotes in our Nov.25 issue.