Opponents of a proposed beachfront recreational resort in Port Hueneme say they will take their case to the California Coastal Commission now that the City Council has approved the proposal after a stormy meeting.
The council voted 4 to 1 at a special meeting late Tuesday to approve the project despite protests from environmentalists and residents, who said it would harm a nearby wetland habitat and ruin their views of the ocean. Councilwoman Toni Young opposed the plan.
The city’s environmental impact report said that the recreational vehicle resort would cause minimal harm to its surrounding natural habitat.
“I don’t think we will have any problems having it approved” by the Coastal Commission, Mayor Orvene Carpenter said.
But some residents of the Surfside III Condominium, a property adjacent to the proposed site, said they will continue efforts to stop the project.
“We will go in with our attorney and consultants and ask the Coastal Commission to deny the application to build the RV park,” said Tom Brigham, president of the Surfside III Condominium Homeowners Assn.
The state Coastal Commission has already expressed reservations about the project.
“We have reviewed the most recent environmental report and there are still some issues that are unresolved,” said Christopher Price, a Coastal Commission program analyst. “Once the city submits the proposal, we will be analyzing those issues for consistency with coastal act policies.”
Price said that some concerns involve questions about the project’s effect on the natural habitat of the coastal area and the use of coastal land. State laws give priority for coastal land use to operations that require the use of beachfront property.
“Highest priority (is given to) projects that cannot be located somewhere else, like boat rentals versus other types of developments that can be located somewhere else, such as a restaurant,” Price said.
The city has proposed building the 144-space RV resort on a 10-acre beachfront site at the end of Ocean View Drive at Port Hueneme Beach Park.
Members of the Surfside III Condominium Homeowners Assn. and the Sierra Club said they will file a federal lawsuit against the city if the Coastal Commission approves the project.
“If the Coastal Commission approves this project, this federal lawsuit will be the first of many suits we will bring,” said Tom Brigham, president of the Surfside III Condominium Homeowners Assn.
The lawsuit will be funded by the Sierra Club’s national defense fund, Brigham said.
The city has maintained that the RV resort is the most feasible means for Port Hueneme to raise revenue without increasing taxes or assessments, city officials said.
But some of the homeowners of the 375 condominiums adjacent to the proposed site argue that the city is violating their property rights.
Some homeowners contend that when they purchased their properties in the 1970s, the city promised them that Port Hueneme Beach would remain a park. But city officials have said they made no such assurances.
In an interview after Tuesday’s meeting, Councilwoman Young said she also expected that the area would remain undeveloped.
“I voted against (the resort) because the Coastal Commission originally said that the beach part should be open space and I think it should remain that way,” she said.
However, Port Hueneme officials said the city has the legal right to amend city laws and zoning governing the use of coastal land, with approval from the state Coastal Commission.
“The city’s action to amend its zoning is by no means illegal,” said Tom Figg, the city’s director of community development.
Figg also disputed claims that the proposed RV resort would disturb the habitat of the California least tern, an endangered shorebird that nests on Ormond Beach, just south of the proposed site.
Tuesday marked the second time the council has voted to approve an environmental report for the project since it was first conceived in 1989.
In April, 1992, under pressure from the state Coastal Commission and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, who questioned the project’s environmental impact, the council sent the original environmental impact report back for revision.
The Coastal Commission will review the city’s application within 90 days of receiving it and will also hold a public hearing, Price said.
Port Hueneme Mayor Carpenter said the city expects the Coastal Commission hearing in August or September.