The Moorpark City Council has given the go-ahead for construction of about 236 modestly priced homes planned by Urban West Communities, despite objections by neighboring homeowners who said the project would undermine their property values.
Siding with the majority in the 4-1 vote Wednesday, Councilman Scott Montgomery said home values had already dropped in the area because of the depressed housing market and that the new development would not affect the price of neighboring homes.
"The market is going to determine where their property values are going to go," he said. "I would love to be able to fix the (depressed market), but I just don't have any way of doing that."
Originally mapped out for 257 luxury condominiums meant to complete the 2,500-home Mountain Meadows development, the developers changed the proposal as home sales sagged over the past four years.
Many of the residents living nearby said they paid premium prices for their homes with the belief that an upscale project was to be built there.
Sympathizing with those homeowners, Councilman Patrick Hunter voted against the project. He said the new development was too different from the surrounding single-family homes, which are as large as 3,700 square feet.
"I was disappointed that the plan changed so dramatically after it was represented to a large number of people for a long time as being a development of luxury townhomes," he said. "These people made the biggest purchase of their lives based on that information, and now they suddenly find out that it was wrong."
Jill Clark, a Simi Valley real estate agent who has sold many homes in Moorpark, told the council Wednesday night that news of the impending council action had already scared off several buyers from the area. One of the clients she represents, Cathy Pierce, told the council that she was unable to sell her home for more than she paid for it in 1989.
But even Hunter said there is no clear evidence that the new project would hurt the property values of existing homes.
Michael Teobaldi, a Westlake real estate consultant for the developer, said that in other mixed developments throughout Southern California the lower-priced homes do not affect the price of the larger ones.
He said factors such as the density of a project and views are more important. The new plan would not have an impact on views, and the number of dwellings per acre would be the same as in the luxury condominium proposal.
The new project has 138 condominiums that are about half the size of the 2,500-square-foot luxury homes originally planned. Also included are 98 single-family homes averaging about 1,950 square feet, which are clustered on small lots around a common courtyard--making them more affordable.