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Dispute With Parks Agency : County Says It May Keep Medfield Street Parcel

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles County officials said Thursday that they might hold onto property that contains a controversial Agoura Hills street rather than sell it to a state parks agency at less than market value.

“We don’t have to sell the land to anybody,” said Richard E. Hoff, assistant deputy director of the county’s Department of Public Works.

By keeping the property, at Medfield Street and Lewis Road in Agoura Hills, the land could bring more money into the county’s road fund, Hoff said.

At a news conference Thursday, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy announced plans to buy the 2-acre tract from the county and then to sell it at a higher price, using the money to help finance the purchase of 10 acres nearby for an equestrian park.

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State Law

State law allows the conservancy to have right of first refusal on the sale of surplus public land, and the agency can buy such land at the price the seller originally paid, rather than the market price.

But Conservancy Executive Director Joseph T. Edmiston and the conservancy backed away from the controversy involving Medfield Street, which crisscrosses the property.

A conservancy spokeswoman had said Wednesday that the agency would grant an easement to the city of Agoura Hills to reopen the street, which the county closed after residents objected to the traffic and noise it produced.

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But Edmiston said Thursday that the easement issue should be resolved by the city and the county before the conservancy took over ownership of the property. He would not discuss what role his agency might play if the issue were to remain unresolved.

Meanwhile, Hoff said the county has not taken a position on whether to support or oppose the conservancy’s plan to buy the land and then resell it.

Cost to County

He said the plan could cost the county road fund $150,000, the difference between the $300,000 price the conservancy would pay and the $450,000 the county has estimated to be the property’s market value.

“We are not averse to parks,” Hoff said. But, he said, “We have a responsibility to the road fund.”

Edmiston questioned whether the county can pull the property out from under his agency’s plans.

In a letter dated Aug. 9, he said, the county told the conservancy that it “is proposing to sell the property. . . .” Edmiston said the conservancy informed the county of its intention to exercise its right of first refusal.

But Hoff said that the Aug. 9 letter should have said the county is “considering” selling the land, rather than “is proposing” to sell it.

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“The letter stands on its own,” Edmiston said.


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