Nature lovers hoping to spare two controversial meadows from development have won support from the Ojai Planning Commission.
The commission recommended Wednesday that a 26-acre parcel on Besant Road and an adjoining 32-acre parcel along Maricopa Highway be designated as open space.
Meanwhile, Besant Meadow changed hands Wednesday morning after lenders foreclosed on developer John Schuck of Franciscan-Lowe Ojai Venture. Schuck recently lost a five-year court battle with Ventura County to build 50 houses.
The new owners, the William Blatt Family Trust, could not be contacted for comment.
David Armanetti, the agent for Howard M. Palmer of Ojai Investments Ltd., said he needs more information before commenting on how the zone change could affect Palmer’s plans for the 32-acre site. After losing a 10-year battle with the city to build a shopping center, Palmer wants to create a 26-lot subdivision and donate 12 acres for a public park.
Both property owners lost long court battles this year to develop their land under the current zoning. Two local public land trusts want to buy the parcels to preserve their wetland habitats.
Rezoning the parcels from residential and commercial to a new “institutional-recreational” zone would allow some development but would severely limit the amount, city planners said Wednesday.
The slow-growth city has spent four years drafting a plan to place 21 other parcels under the new zoning as a way to curb commercial development. The City Council is slated to adopt the document, called the Maricopa Specific Plan, early next year.