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VENTURA : Neel Family Rebuts Charges on Land

Members of an old farming family have offered a stinging rebuke to an environmental consultant’s charge of pervasive contamination on their Ventura Avenue property, which the family hopes to transform into a residential development.

“I can categorically state that the property has not been surrounded by industrial waste sites and is not contaminated,” Thomas Neel wrote in a statement dated Aug. 23.

According to a report submitted Thursday to the Neels by the environmental engineering firm of Fugro West, soil on the property showed no evidence of contamination by heavy industrial wastes.

But consultants hired by opponents of the 120-home project allege otherwise.

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In a package mailed to Ventura’s mayor and other city officials last week, consultant Robert Cashier asserted that there is a “100% probability” that the project site, between Stanley Avenue and Seneca Street, is contaminated with oil-field and industrial wastes.

Neel scoffed in his statement at Cashier’s allegations, which were based on historical, aerial photographs and historical data. Neel asserted that the consultant misidentified a gravel mining operation and a water reservoir as oil waste dumps, and a walnut tree as an herbicide reservoir.

The Neels will ask the council Monday for permission to build a residential development, bike paths and a small park on their 26 acres west of Ventura Avenue.

Kinko’s Service Corp., the national copy service giant, owns 22 adjoining acres to the south, and company officials have warned that they may move their headquarters out of Ventura if the city does not permit residential development on the Neel property. Kinko’s officials, who may expand their operations, believe the Neel project would upgrade the area.

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But the small-business owners whose storefronts line the Neel and Kinko’s properties have vociferously opposed the development because they say it would be out of place in the industrial neighborhood.


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