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Thousand Oaks Denies Suit Allegations Over Housing Plan

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Thousand Oaks City Council members denied allegations Monday that they ignored state environmental laws when approving a major Newbury Park development and blasted the Sierra Club for suing the city last week.

“This is a frivolous lawsuit that will do nothing more than cost our citizens money,” Thousand Oaks Mayor Alex Fiore said. “This lawsuit is absurd, completely absurd.”

Filed late Friday, the lawsuit alleges that a 220-house subdivision of the massive Dos Vientos development poses a substantial environmental threat and should not have been approved.

The Sierra Club argues that the City Council’s 1990 development agreement, in which the city gave developers the right to build in exchange for cash and land, does not permit the city to circumvent state environmental laws.

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The council approved the first subdivision in July after a divisive public hearing. Council members Fiore, Frank Schillo and Judy Lazar supported the project, saying the development agreement gave them no choice but to approve it. Councilwomen Elois Zeanah and Jaime Zukowski voted against the development.

Schillo said Monday he was surprised by the suit.

“I’m not sure why they decided to sue the city now, and not when the agreement was being discussed six years ago,” he said. “This really comes too late in the process.”

Schillo said he thought when the agreement was signed that residents would be pleased because it cut in half the number of residences initially proposed for the 4,000-acre parcel north of Potrero Road. As approved, the project would have fewer houses per acre than in much of the rest of Newbury Park, he said.

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“I thought we did a good job with it,” Schillo said. “Every time the residents got up at the hearing, they asked for the homes to be moved to the east, but nobody could tell me where east was. I guess they wanted it in New York State or something. Anywhere but in their back yard.”

Fiore agreed, calling the Newbury Park residents who helped fund the suit “a small group of NIMBYs who, as soon as their own houses were built, decided that should be the end of development in Thousand Oaks.”

But Michelle Koetke, president of Residents to Preserve Newbury Park, said the group spearheaded a fund-raising effort that received more than $10,000 to help fund the suit. She said it was more than just a local effort.


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