Near Thousand Oaks : City Council OKs Project at MGM Ranch

Times Staff Writer

Developers won the Thousand Oaks City Council's approval Wednesday to build more than 1,400 homes and a 102-acre industrial park on the former MGM Ranch near the northwest corner of the city.

In the second of two lengthy public hearings, the City Council voted 4 to 1 to allow Shapell Industries of Beverly Hills to develop the 1,862-acre property.

Mayor Lee Laxdal, who predicted that the development will be "environmentally damaging," voted against it.

"The density of the project is probably too great in the eyes of some, but we recognized that some development will go there eventually," City Councilman Lawrence E. Horner said. "The project is the best that we can expect there."

In 1983, the city had granted Shapell Industries approval to build 1,851 homes on the property. But, in 1985, the council rejected a revised plan by Shapell, which decided it wanted the development to be primarily industrial.

Residents opposed to the current Shapell development told the council that the project will create unwanted traffic and ruin views from Arroyo Conejo, a nearby canyon used by hikers and equestrians.

But, in a concession to the developer, the council agreed to drop a requirement that no homes be visible from the canyon floor. Shapell representatives agreed, however, to set aside 1,170 acres for open space. An 18-hole golf course and hiking and equestrian trails are planned for that area.

Project supporters said the development, outside the city limits at the north end of Rancho Conejo Boulevard, would bring needed housing and jobs to the area. The unincorporated Ventura County property, which must be annexed by the city before work begins, is undeveloped.

City officials estimated that the project will add 3,700 residents to the city. Approval by the council allows construction of 1,009 single-family houses, 400 apartments and the industrial park.

Shapell representative Alan Cummins estimated that the development will be completed in 10 to 15 years. Work is expected to begin next year, he said.

Property owner Nathan Shapell, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Shapell Industries, who is also chairman of the state Commission on Organization and Economy--commonly called the Little Hoover Commission--purchased the ranch from MGM in 1977. The film company dropped plans to relocate its studios there in the late 1960s.

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