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Community NEWS

Commentary on Development & Water Supply

by admin - January 8th, 2015.
Filed under: Commentary.
Ventura Council Looks to Improve Oversight Op-Ed in Ventura County Star by Diane Underhill (with changes), Dec. 2014 After previewing overly massive and dense projects already in the planning process the big question for Ventura’s City Council (Monday 12/15) became whether to regain stewardship of Ventura and return public transparency by reinstating the Residential Growth Management Program (RGMP). The RGMP was the only city program that paced residential growth so that new development would not overwhelm our available infrastructure like: water, road, and police/fire capacity. The RGMP was intact when the current 2005 General Plan underwent it's Draft Environmental Impact Report review. However, almost simultaneously with the adoption of the 2005 General Plan, the then sitting Council voted to replace the RGMP with the Housing Approval Program (HAP). With that single council action, Ventura gave up control and oversight moving from a transparent managed-growth policy to an opaque program that stripped control from the City Council and provided the public little oversight. Now with the recession waning, developers are flocking to Ventura with proposals for overly large developments in inappropriate locations and with substandard parking plans. It is now apparent that the “compatible infill” vision in our General Plan under the RGMP has quickly morphed into plans of “overfill” under the HAP. Doing away with the RGMP essentially blocked the development process from view, both for the public and the City Council. This Council is now moving to correct the problem. Monday night, several City Council members, including Mayor Heitmann, made comments of concern over the lack of compatibility of several projects that seek even more density than the generous zoning permitted. When Mayor Heitmann asked how the council could prevent approvals for such massive out-of-character buildings the Community Development Director replied the Council could reinstate the RGMP. The RGMP would also help tie development to the available water supply. Monday night water watchdog Dan Cormode, using the city’s own figures, showed Ventura has already exceeded its water resources, and should hold off on new water connections until a long-term solution is in place. Mr. Cormode explained the city is currently “renting” water from Lake Casitas for Ventura’s East side to blend with their undrinkable groundwater, and there is no plan for replacing “borrowed” water as is required. Like a U-haul, the rental fees are due until the water is returned. The RGMP was criticized by developers and their lobbyists as a biennial “beauty contest” where they competed for allocations. To its supporters, it retained stewardship of the community vision with elected officials.  Today development permits are handled by an administrative process that lies beyond public view and beyond the reach of elected officials unless the developer is seeking a General Plan amendment. The RGMP kept the community engaged as stakeholders. The community’s response to the “beauty contest” criticism was, “What’s wrong with beautiful developments that work with and enhance our city?”

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