General Plan May Be Amended for SOAR

The City Council tonight will consider amending the city's General Plan to incorporate the Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources slow-growth initiative passed by voters last November.

The council asked city staff to prepare a resolution directing the Planning Commission to study the measure which, among other things, prevents the city from growing beyond its current boundaries.

The Planning Commission would also hold a public hearing on the initiative. The commission will then make a recommendation to the City Council on how to apply the measure to a large parcel of land north of the city that had been set aside to house one of the largest developments in Ventura County history, Hidden Creek Ranch.

Acting Community Development Director Wayne Loftus said the council was prompted to start incorporating SOAR by citizens who supported the measure at the polls.

"They've been getting comments from people that supported SOAR and asked questions when it's going to be implemented," he said. "They're trying to be responsive to those individuals."

Loftus said there is no deadline for SOAR to take shape.

"Typically on initiatives that affect general plans, the state law indicates 'as soon as practical,' or words to that effect," he said.

SOAR was approved in part because of a backlash against the proposed 3,221-home Hidden Creek Ranch project, which was to be built on 4,300 acres north of the city.

Voters resoundingly overturned the City Council's approval of the project and adopted the slow-growth measure to prevent the city from developing outside its current borders.

Costa Mesa-based Messenger Investment Co., which has been trying to get Hidden Creek Ranch off the ground for more than a decade, sued Moorpark for $150 million in April, contending that the city took its land for public use without compensation.

The developer squared off with environmentalists again last week, when a Superior Court judge preliminarily overturned the city's annexation of the land for the sprawling development, pending a final decision sometime next month.

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