Nearly 300 residents packed a raucous Port Hueneme City Council meeting Tuesday night to express concerns about a proposal to build a recreational vehicle park on a city-owned beach.
Carrying signs that said “Save Our Wetlands,” and “City Officials, Your Jobs Are at Stake,” many in the overflow crowd booed and hissed--or cheered--as speakers addressed the council at the special meeting.
Police were forced briefly to subdue some residents in the crowd who yelled at city officials during a slide presentation of the project at the beginning of the meeting.
At issue is a proposal to build a 144-space RV park on a 10-acre beachfront site at the end of Ocean View Drive at Port Hueneme Beach Park. The council was scheduled late Tuesday to vote on an addendum to an environmental impact report that said the RV park would cause minimal harm to its surrounding natural habitat.
Environmentalists and some residents have long opposed the plan and many of them spoke at Tuesday’s meeting.
“No one wants to buy a home near an RV site,” said Katy Greenstreet, who said the value of her condominium has dropped about 30% since the park was first proposed. “If they put the RV park on the beach, their toilets will be facing my windows.”
Michael Grissinger, a resident of the Port Hueneme beach area since 1977, said the park would diminish the quality of life in the area. “I’m concerned about what type of people would come here. Would crime increase? How about pollution?”
However, some residents who support the park came to its defense.
Leo Nichols, an RV owner and city resident since 1957, said the park would benefit the city. “It is hard to find a good RV resort and that is what the city is proposing to do here,” he said. “I definitely support the project.”
Members of the Surfside III Condominium Homeowners Assn. and the Sierra Club said they plan to file a federal lawsuit against the city if the project is approved. They charge that the park would violate the federal endangered species act and would also be in violation of federal laws because the park would limit access to public land.
“If by chance hell freezes over and you gain approval at the (state) Coastal Commission, we will go into the courts and tie up this project for years,” said Tom Brigham, president of the homeowners association. “Believe us, we know how to do it. The first volley is being fired tonight.”
The city must obtain approval from the state Coastal Commission to move ahead with its plan, city officials said.
The city has maintained that the RV resort is the most feasible means for the city to raise money without raising taxes or assessments, said City Manager John R. Velthoen.
But opponents say the park would significantly obstruct their ocean views and said the city is violating their property rights.
“When we bought property, the city promised us that the beach would remain a park,” said homeowner David Kanter in an interview before the meeting. “Now I feel they are breaking their word. They are breaking the law.”
Environmentalists have argued that the park would disturb the habitat of the California least tern, an endangered shorebird that nests on Ormond Beach, just south of the proposed site. But city officials dispute that claim.
Tuesday marked the second time the council has considered an environmental impact report for the project since it was first proposed in 1989.
In April, 1992, under pressure from the state Coastal Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the project’s effect on the environment, the council sent the original environmental impact report back for revision.
The project has also been criticized by some as a potential money loser that would not fulfill the city’s stated goal to raise $400,000 in revenues a year.
In July, 1993, an economic study by a group opposing the RV resort asserted that the project would lose $190,000 in its first two years and would never be a good investment for the city.
City officials, however, contend the financially strapped city would offer an RV resort that would provide more amenities than any RV park in the area.