The Simi Valley Planning Commission has given initial approval for construction of 1,500 homes on the Big Sky movie ranch north of the city.
The commission voted unanimously Thursday night to change the land-use designation to allow higher-density development on 600 acres owned by the Big Sky Ranch Co.
The company wants to build a residential community with two golf courses and a small commercial center on acreage extending from Sand Canyon on the west to Tapo Canyon on the east. The development would include senior-citizen housing in a locked-gate community.
Thursday's vote was only the first step in the approval process. The Planning Commission must officially adopt the land-use change before the proposal to the City Council, which also must give approval. The city also would have to change the zoning for the property, as well as annex the land, which is now unincorporated county territory.
Big Sky owns 2,600 acres in the area, but only 600 acres are considered suitable for development. Big Sky originally proposed 2,080 units for the area, but planning commissioners recommended scaling back the project by one-fourth.
"I think it's got some great potential," said Commissioner Michael Piper.
"It looks like really a fine, exciting project," said Commissioner Judy Mikels. "It definitely brings a balance to the community." Mikels also said that the locked-gate housing "would be a wonderful addition."
At a public hearing before the vote, Stephen Lofano, who lives within 300 feet of the project boundary, told the commission that he was worried that the hillsides would be spoiled by the project and that an influx of thousands of residents could cause greater congestion on the Simi Valley Freeway and in the hills, more pollution and water shortages.
"I'm disappointed," Lofano said after the meeting. "It's time to turn down some of these proposals. We want to maintain a rural atmosphere; that's why we moved here."