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THOUSAND OAKS : Panel Orders Man to Replace Native Plants

Angered by a Thousand Oaks resident who clear-cut 10 acres of natural growth on his property, city planners denied the resident’s request to replant his spacious yard with flowering trees and grass.

Charles Probst’s plan to replace native plants with intricate landscaping on the hillside at Westlake Boulevard and Kanan Road brought the ire of area residents, who said Probst betrayed them by scraping all the vegetation from his land.

In a 1985 agreement, the Planning Commission allowed the original owner of the land to build a home atop the 16-acre parcel in exchange for preserving the natural growth on the acreage below.

But when Probst acquired the land, he proceeded to scrape away the vegetation.

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Probst’s architect, who represented him at the Monday night hearing, said Probst wanted to clear the brush because he was concerned about the risk of a fire.

But representatives from the Westlake Village North homeowners association said they believed that Probst scraped the land as a ploy to gain approval for his choice of landscaping.

They said Probst probably reasoned that anyone would prefer landscaping to a scraped, dirt hillside. Architect Stephen Halley denied that, calling the scraping an honest mistake.

Residents were further angered by Halley’s request that the commission permit Probst to build an 1,800-square-foot bunker to house gardening equipment and two electric golf carts used to motor Probst around his property.

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Several planning commissioners bristled at that request, including Commissioner Mervyn Kopp, who has traditionally sided with property owners in land-use matters.

“I refuse to play the fool here,” Kopp said. “I don’t know what he would build if we approved this. It could be Barnum & Bailey’s for all we know.”

After a lengthy debate, the commission voted 3 to 1 to deny Probst’s proposal and required him to replant the barren hillside with plants native to the area. Chairman Forrest Frields dissented. Commissioner Lew Wasserman was absent.


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