New Mayor Vows to End RV Project : Port Hueneme: City Council directs its staff to find out the legal and financial costs of dropping the plan.
One day after being elected Port Hueneme’s new mayor, Toni Young vowed Thursday to try to kill a city plan to build a 139-space recreational vehicle resort on a city-owned beach.
At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, the council directed the city staff to study scrapping the proposal, which was approved last month by the California Coastal Commission.
“Right now we need to know what are the legal and financial implications for the city to put the RV project on a shelf,” Young said. “It may take time, but we certainly will kill this project.”
Two of the council’s three new members--Jon Sharkey and Robert Turner--backed Young’s nomination to the mayor’s job and agreed with her that the proposal to build the resort on a 10-acre beachfront site near the municipal pier should die.
“I think that by retiring the RV project, we’ll be serving the interest of the people of Port Hueneme, and that’s why I was elected to office,” Sharkey said in an interview Thursday. “The message that the people sent us in the election was clear: Let’s abandon the RV project and let’s look for other ways to increase city revenues.”
The third new council member, Anthony Volante, said he has not yet decided on the issue. The remaining council member, former Mayor Orvene Carpenter, has been a staunch supporter of the resort.
For five years, Carpenter, along with former council members Dorill Wright, Ken Hess and James Daniels, pushed for the resort, despite opposition from environmentalists and nearby residents.
Coastal Commission officials were not available for comment Thursday. But Port Hueneme City Manager Richard Velthoen said the city has no legal obligation to build the park.
Before the project can be halted, however, Velthoen said the city must hold a public hearing and a majority of council members must vote against it.
City officials have estimated that the resort would raise $400,000 a year in revenue. So far, the city has spent more than $600,000 on environmental and market studies of the project.
At Wednesday’s meeting, opponents of the resort pleaded with newly sworn council members to stop the project.
“We urge you to use this opportunity to kill the RV resort project,” said Tom Brigham, president of the Surfside III Condominium Homeowners Assn. “The destiny of this project is to be dead, dead, dead, dead.”
During the meeting, opponents vowed to sue the city if the resort were built. But former Councilman Wright addressed the new council, saying the city could afford to fight such a lawsuit because the state attorney general would pick up legal costs.
“Of course there will be lawsuits, but the city would not be financially responsible,” Wright said.
Wright’s comments angered some residents, who said no matter which agency pays to defend the city, the funds would ultimately come from taxpayers’ pockets.
Carpenter--who is in the middle of a four-year term--warned the council that if the resort is not built, the city may not be able to keep its Police Department.
“We have to consider that if we don’t build the RV, we may have to contract with the sheriff’s to provide us with law enforcement,” Carpenter told the council.
In October, the city adopted a 4% utility tax that will raise an estimated $500,000 yearly--money the council pledged to use earmark for law enforcement.
But Carpenter said that in an emergency, the city might have to use that money for other purposes.
The RV project was not the only source of tension during the four-hour meeting. Young’s election to the mayor’s job also led to a sharp division on the council.
Young, who has publicly criticized Velthoen and in the past often cast the lone vote against the four veteran council members, was nominated for mayor by Sharkey.
Volante, however, a longtime supporter of the former council, nominated Carpenter, who has served on the council since 1964 and was the mayor for the past four years.
Sharkey said he supported Young because Carpenter had just served in the post, and Young was the only other returning council member. “I think the rest of us are too inexperienced to have that position,” Sharkey said.
While some residents celebrated Young’s victory, others were sad to see the former council members leave office.
“I consider people like Dorill Wright part of my family,” said Sydney Malin, who has not missed a City Council meeting in 16 years. “This place used to be a slum, and they turned this city into a pretty little town. I sure am going to miss them.”
During an emotional parting speech, 22-year City Councilman Wright gave each new council member a Bible in which he wrote:
“My guide book for nearly 30 years of public service. Perhaps it will serve you as well.”
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