Ventura May Ban Eastside Projects


In the wake of bitter neighborhood opposition to a proposed McDonald's, Ventura officials are considering an eight-month ban of most commercial development in a portion of the city's east side.

The City Council will consider a measure tonight barring large-scale commercial projects on a stretch of Telephone Road between Johnson Drive and Saticoy Avenue until Jan. 31.

While no big projects are due to begin construction during that period, the action would give the city time to fine-tune its zoning regulations in the area. The ordinance would extend a 45-day moratorium instituted after the council blocked the McDonald's bid in late April.

During the hiatus, the city would hire a planning consultant to analyze how its zoning rules may be tightened to preclude projects likely to raise the same intense conflict as the McDonald's fast-food restaurant. The study would cost $25,000 if it is limited to the Telephone Road area, and $50,000 if it examines zoning across the city, according to city officials.

In east Ventura neighborhoods, residents earlier this spring mobilized against the fast-food chain's plans to move into an old Bank of America branch at Telephone Road and Petit Avenue. They contended that the restaurant would be a nuisance, drawing unwanted traffic, noise and trash.

McDonald's followed the zoning code, but city officials said they felt the regulations were flawed, failing to anticipate a legal property use that would strike so many neighbors as inappropriate.

"We want to take a closer look at zoning in the area," Mayor Sandy Smith said in an interview last week. "This was a project that could have gone forward if we hadn't intervened."

In response to the neighborhood's opposition, the council imposed a temporary ban on commercial building permits in the area. The restaurant chain withdrew its plans for the former bank building, but still wants to locate in the area, according to Smith.

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