Vol. 9, No. 3 – November 11 – November 24, 2015 – Opinion/Editorial

As stated in our cover article the Planning Commission (with a 5-1 vote) has approved the “prescreen” of the proposed 55-unit hillside development by Regency Properties. They also recommended that the City Council allow the “prescreen” to proceed at the CC Nov.30 meeting.

I’m certain that on Nov. 30 the City Council will also vote for the prescreen process to continue. After this, the project won’t likely come back to the Council for up to, possibly, two years (or more).

The Commission’s approval is not for these specific plans but only gives the “greenlight” for the City Council to approve the “prescreen”. This will allow the developer to submit an application which will start a very lengthy and very expensive process to go through environmental review (EIR) along submission to several city departments so they can make recommendations to the City Council.

After analysis, I can be included as a supporter of a 55-unit Regency project. There, I actually said it for the first time. I’m not saying I completely support the project as it is currently proposed but certainly the idea of 55 (more or less) clustered luxury homes being built in that general area.

Much of the opposition seems to be due to Regency preparing what looks like final drawings for the project, which (in my opinion) was a mistake. They submitted numerous completed drawings that were not required for a prescreen. Probably more than any developer has submitted for a prescreen in Ventura.

Because of the extent of the plans, residents were able to be very specific in their opposition. For instance, what they saw as high retaining walls, high slopes, etc. Once again, this is only a concept for the project not a final set of plans ready to be evaluated.

Developer Daniel Gryczman said, “We’re looking forward to continuing the process and creating an even greater project as we move forward.” Regency should be given that chance.

I have been accused of meeting with Regency so that they could convince me that this is a good plan for the chosen site. I did not meet with them to evaluate their drawings but to evaluate Regency, not the project. I feel that Regency builds outstanding projects. They are not a fly-by-night company but have a strong track record of building beautiful developments. I feel confident that if this project does ever move forward it will be one that we can all be proud of.

New housing, especially high-end, is desperately needed. These will be housing types that are sorely needed in Ventura. They will help to satisfy an un-met need for luxury (not quite executive) housing, and they will bring sorely needed taxes and dollars to Ventura.

As an added benefit, this type of construction would hire many construction workers that would earn from $15 to $150 per hour. This would be an added boost to our local economy and businesses.

The fact that hundreds of acres will be given to the Hillside Conservancy appeals to me. I have visited the proposed area and it would be an amazing addition to the city. It would include beautiful hiking trails which could eventually connect to the Ventura Botanical Gardens.

Those opposed have stated that if “Regency can’t follow the HMP (Hillside Management Program) that they should leave town”. The HMP is not a code, rather it is a general guideline for development projects in our hillsides which will then be considered by the City Council. The guidelines were never meant to be followed exactly but as a reference for hillside development.

At the hearing one speaker said that Regency just wants to come here to make a “quick buck.” Regency started this process with the City in 2013 and if all goes smoothly (which it never does) they might have homes for sale in 2019. Some quick buck.

Based upon current zoning, this site could accommodate 1,300 homes that could comply to the HMP (it wouldn’t happen of course).

I have heard folks say that 55 homes will put a large burden on our roads with cars constantly pouring out of the hillsides. A typical mid-town street between Main and Thompson includes approximately 45 homes, and I don’t see cars pouring out on to these streets. Currently, Ventura has about 40,000 homes, and we’re talking about adding 55 more.

There will be plenty of opportunities for all to be heard in the months ahead, so let’s relax and wait until the next phase of drawings are submitted. These plans, once submitted, will take into consideration the comments and concerns of the Planning Commission, City Council and the general public. At that point we can all decide if we are for or against the project.

It is likely that some of those opposed to the Planning Commission approving the pre-screen either don’t understand exactly what was approved or are ignoring it to make their points.

For instance, I’ve heard one commissioner, David Ferrin, quoted because he voted no to the prescreen even though he stated, “With better design I think that 55 high quality homes is feasible.” So even he is not opposed to the concept of building 55 clustered homes in the general proposed area. He voted no so his concerns for the current drawings could be heard. Again, this is irrelevant at this point because these preliminary drawings will not ultimately be what is built.

When more final plans have been prepared and submitted to the City, the Ventura Breeze will facilitate a forum where we can all review and talk about the exact proposed development.

Kudos to Dan Long, Planning Commission Chair, for running a great, civil initial public meeting. I’m sure Mayor Heitmann will achieve the same at the upcoming City Council meeting.

And the rumor that Regency Development will be giving me one of these houses for supporting this project is not true. They didn’t even buy me lunch.

 

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