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Development, Fence Issues Pepper Civic Forum : Commentary: Residents speak their minds at an informal town hall meeting with Thousand Oaks City Council members.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

From anger about plans to build a movie theater complex next to the Civic Arts Plaza to concerns over a neighbor’s rule-breaking fence, residents shared their opinions with City Council members at a town hall meeting Tuesday night.

In the second such meeting this fall, council members left their imposing City Hall chambers to instead hold an informal meeting with about 25 residents at the North Ranch Community Center.

What they heard wasn’t always pretty.

“If you want to make this city into a vision of Century City, go somewhere else,” said Michelle Tatro, chastising city officials for a plan to develop an 11-acre parcel adjacent to the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.

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The proposed project would include a multiscreen cinema and several restaurants. The city is negotiating with El Segundo-based Kilroy Industries to build the complex and held the second of two community sessions to discuss the project Tuesday afternoon, before the town hall meeting.

Tatro, who moved to Thousand Oaks five years ago, said she came to the town hall meeting despite having a sick dog at home and her own illness to fight off. “Look at me,” she said. “I look terrible.”

But she said she cares too much about the direction the city is headed to not show up for the meeting.

“You will put a further strain on the community,” Tatro told the council. “I didn’t move here to be bombarded with commercial over-development.”

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Resident Rickie Whitman had similar concerns about the proposed development on the so-called private side of the Civic Arts Plaza. She said she went to the first community session on the issue and had grave doubts about the city’s intent.

“It seemed like they were making a presentation of what they wanted to do and they weren’t listening to the residents,” Whitman said.

In contrast, she said, developer Rick Caruso has paid attention to residents’ wishes while planning a separate retail and entertainment complex at the eastern of end of the city.

“Mr. Caruso came to the community and asked what we wanted,” Whitman said. “He actually showed that he listened to what we wanted.”

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Caruso’s plans include bringing a Barnes & Noble super store, a six-screen Mann Theater, a Starbucks Coffee, and a Noah’s Bagels shop at the corner of Westlake and Thousand Oaks boulevards. Approval of the project is pending action by the city’s planning commission.

After expressing her support for the Caruso project, resident Cathy Schutz brought up another issue that has haunted the posh North Ranch neighborhood: millionaire Charles Probst’s wrought iron fence.

The fence, which surrounds Probst’s sprawling North Ranch property at the intersection of Kanan Road and Westlake Boulevard, violates city regulations. The city’s permit for the fence requires that it be set back 35 feet from the road, instead of its current distance of 6 to 15 feet from the curb.

Through his attorney, Probst has said the fence is only temporary and will be removed by Jan. 15. But Schutz said her homeowners’ association has never received any official notification from Probst or the city about when the fence will be removed.

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“It would be nice for us to know, to hear and have it in writing what is going to happen,” Schutz said.

City Atty. Mark Sellers promised her a copy of the letter.


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