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150-Home Project on Fair Site OKd

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Thursday approved a developer’s proposal to build 150 homes on the former site of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Agoura, apparently dashing hopes that the land will become public parkland.

Led by Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who represents the area, the board refused to consider the desire of state park officials, Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) and Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Los Angeles) to buy the 320-acre site for inclusion in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

The board voted 3 to 1 to allow developer Brian Heller to build 150 homes on the property, where the county plan had allowed for only 103.

“The only issue that the board can properly address today is how the property should be permitted to be developed as privately owned property,” Antonovich said.

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Value of Land

Park proponents had urged the board to hold the development to 103 homes, so that the land’s value would stay within what the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy can afford. In December, the National Park Service transferred $8 million to the conservancy, a state parks agency, to buy the land and donate it to the park service.

But Antonovich, citing the views of county attorneys, said: “We could be subject to a lawsuit for inverse condemnation if we were to unreasonably withhold a development approval to hold down the price of the land.”

Supervisor Ed Edelman cast the only dissenting vote. Supervisor Kenneth Hahn was absent.

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In recent weeks, Beilenson and Wilson had told the board that zoning changes in the Santa Monica Mountains escalate land values and send a message to Congress that the county does not support the national park.

Beilenson said in a statement Thursday that he is “outraged” by the decision.

Fair Site

The best use of the former fair site “is to turn it into parkland, to be used and enjoyed by tens of millions of people, now and in the future, but the supervisors’ action . . . makes it virtually impossible that it will be put to such use,” Beilenson said in the statement.

“The supervisors’ action amounts to an attempt to force the taxpayers to cough up millions of dollars more to further enrich the owner, who already stands to make millions from the sale of this land,” Beilenson added.

Wilson, a candidate for governor, was more conciliatory. He called the decision “a local matter” but concurred with Beilenson in saying that the action will make it harder to persuade Congress to allocate more money for expanding the national park. The park consists of a patchwork of about 16,000 acres stretching from the Hollywood Freeway to Point Mugu.

The Park Service has no more funds available this year to commit to such a purchase and would have to receive more money from Congress, agency spokesman William G. Thomas said.

The conservancy has not given up hope of buying the land, because it has not received a formal response from Heller to an offer it made for the property. Conservancy officials would not disclose the amount of the offer, but a source close to the negotiations put the figure at $21 million.

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But after the supervisors’ action, Joseph T. Edmiston, executive director of the conservancy, said the agency’s chance of buying the property “clearly does not look good.”

Heller had sought approval for 159 homes on the site, but Antonovich reduced the number to 150 to create an open-space buffer between the project and adjacent National Park Service land at Paramount Ranch.

Heller said he is pleased at the outcome and plans to begin grading in three to four months, with construction to begin in early 1990.

“I don’t want to sell to them,” Heller said. “I want to build my homes. That’s what I do.”

Of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, he said: “They will never hold the fair on that property again--you can quote me.”

Fair officials have said they plan to seek permits to hold the event for eight consecutive weekends, starting May 6, on a 130-acre site in unincorporated eastern Ventura County. But the nearby cities of Moorpark and Thousand Oaks have voted to oppose the fair’s use of the site. The fair drew about 300,000 visitors last year.

Antonovich called Heller’s development “a sensitively designed project that has the support of many of the immediate neighbors.”

Critics such as the Las Virgenes Homeowners Federation and the Agoura Homeowners for the Preservation of the Environment have disagreed, saying the project has serious design flaws and many opponents living nearby.

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Kevin Patterson, executive director of the Historic Oaks Foundation, which has been trying to save the Heller property from development, said his group and other opponents intend to file suit to try to stop the project. Patterson is also an official of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire.


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