Descendants of a pioneer Ventura County family said Monday that they will ask the city of Camarillo to annex more than 120 acres, including a small strip of land that might house a proposed agricultural museum.
Roz McGrath said she would ask the City Council on Wednesday to allow the annexation so three acres could be offered for the proposed Ventura County Farm Implements Museum.
“We want to provide something that’s never been done before in the county, and probably in the state,” McGrath said.
The 120 acres lies between the Ventura Freeway and the Camarillo Airport, just below the Central Avenue interchange. The parcel, owned by members of the McGrath family, is valued at a total of nearly $900,000 and is surrounded on three sides by the city of Camarillo.
“I’m from a fifth-generation farming family and we feel this would be an appropriate contribution,” said McGrath, who in 1992 ran an unsuccessful campaign for the state Assembly.
But the annexation plan probably faces an uphill battle with city officials--with or without the proposed farming museum. The Camarillo City Council twice in recent years has rejected the annexation proposal on split decisions.
Also, two council members said Monday that they would prefer the land remain farmland outside the city limits until more of the available commercial and industrial acreage inside Camarillo is developed.
“I don’t think it’s time to start pursuing other avenues until some of those (existing) areas are completed,” said Councilman Michael Morgan.
First-term Councilman Ken Gose also said he would prefer the acreage remain crop-producing farmland. “I’m not anxious to take out good row crops and take in houses and other buildings at this time,” he said.
But McGrath has an ally in Mayor Charlotte Craven, who said the city should determine the fate of the land because it lies just across the freeway from a proposed state university.
“Whether I have a concern about dwindling farmland or not doesn’t matter,” she said. “If we don’t annex it and control what goes in there, then the county will allow something in there we might not like after the university gets built.”
Craven also said the proposed museum was ideally suited to the McGrath parcels, which abut a greenbelt between the cities of Oxnard and Camarillo.
“The farm implement museum does need a home and it needs a home that’s not smack-dab in the middle of Ventura,” she said. “It needs a home next to a greenbelt.”
Meanwhile, museum committee officials, who have gathered and restored more than 200 historical farm tools and displays, have been saving for years to pay for a building of their own when they finally receive a three-acre land donation.
Bob Pfeiler, who chairs the volunteer committee of farmers working for the Ventura County Museum of History and Art, said the group already has saved more than $300,000 for their museum.
Plans for the museum are part of a 20-year project to round up historical farm tools, including bean planters, hay rakes and buggies. Much of the equipment is stored in a barn on Pfeiler’s farm in Oxnard.
“That’s not the only location the farm implements museum is looking at,” Pfeiler said of the McGrath property. “But that is one of the preferred sites.”
The committee is also looking at sites in the proposed factory outlet mall in Oxnard and on Seaward Avenue near the Ventura Freeway in Ventura.
McGrath “is in the process of getting the necessary permits, but she has so many hurdles to go over we don’t know how long it will be before she’s in a position to make us an offer,” Pfeiler said.
The Camarillo General Plan designates the acreage as future commercial, mixed-use and industrial zoning, identifying specific areas for uses such as research parks, office complexes and retail commercial centers.
But McGrath said she has no intention of building an office park on the property, which now grows rows of mixed vegetables to be sold at the Central Market fruit stand near the Ventura Freeway.
“We’re interested in an agricultural park, and the only way it’s going to work is if it happens on an active farm,” McGrath said.
For Pfeiler, who said he has several other locations in mind for the museum, the waiting is the most difficult.
“We keep getting additional sites offered to us, but none of them have jelled,” he said. “It seems to be a matter of who comes up with a preferred site first.”