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Plans Advance for Disputed Luxury Houses in Moorpark

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Moorpark City Council has decided to allow a Westlake developer to move ahead with a proposal to build a luxury housing tract despite criticism that it would destroy the rural character of the city’s northern slopes.

The 4-1 decision Wednesday night allows developer Paul Bollinger to submit plans to build 101 estates on half of 518 acres of rugged hillsides off Grimes Canyon Road. In return, Bollinger has promised to build a championship golf course, an equestrian center and tennis clubs on the rest of the acreage.

“It’s a quality project, and they realize it’s a quality project,” Bollinger said Thursday. “It’s what the city needs. It gives them upscale houses.” Each house would cost between $800,000 and $1.2 million.

Bollinger said he will submit plans to Moorpark officials within a month. The project is being called Devonshire Farms, he said.

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Council members who voted to allow Bollinger to move forward said they reacted favorably to the proposal because they believe that it will preserve a large chunk of open space in the city’s vast northern corridor.

But Councilman Scott Montgomery strongly opposed the project, saying he has “severe concerns” over the impact that the residential development would have on the environment and surrounding farms and horse ranches.

The zoning allows landowners to build only one house on five acres, but Bollinger plans to build houses on two-acre parcels.

Montgomery accused Bollinger of offering to build recreational facilities that actually will be closed to the public. He said that while the public may be allowed to use the golf course, the tennis courts and riding center will be limited to those who live in the estates.

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“We’re going to destroy .. . the northern part of this city to line the pockets of a developer,” Montgomery said. “I think the developer may have snowed the council rather well.”

Montgomery said he would continue his opposition to the development when the council reviews the project again for final approval. The project still faces tough environmental and legal hurdles as it passes through the planning process.

It is likely that an environmental impact report will be required, city officials said. Also, the property Bollinger hopes to buy to develop the housing is entangled in a court battle involving its two general partners.

Federal investigators are looking into an alleged bank fraud scheme involving questionable real estate loans at the defunct Westlake Thrift & Loan. In connection with the investigation, the assets of Thousand Oaks financier Olen B. Phillips, including the land involved in the proposed real estate venture, were seized. Phillips was a board member at Westlake Thrift.

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A court-appointed attorney last week signed papers allowing Bollinger’s application to be processed by Moorpark city officials pending the outcome of the case.

Landowners surrounding the proposed development have threatened to file a lawsuit if city officials allow Bollinger to increase the density of the property.


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