2005-12-22 / Front Page

Agoura Village sparks concern

By Stephanie Bertholdo bertholdo@theacorn.com

A handful of residents attended a recent Agoura Hills planning commission meeting to comment on the Agoura Village draft environmental impact report.

The 122-page document outlines details of the revitalization project that will transform the area along Agoura Road at Cornell and Kanan roads into a development that mixes retail, office space, restaurants, entertainment, services and residential living.

The residential aspect of Agoura Village appeared to be the sticking point for some residents who live on the south side of the 101 Freeway, closest to the area that will be developed into a “village.”

Mary Altmann, a longtime resident of Agoura, said the environmental was “severely deficient in even addressing the impacts of this overlay plan.” Rather than talk about how the proposed development will look, Altman said, “the EIR should really include specific information on plant and animal species, mineral resources, geological data, water course and flows, historical and archeological information and traffic and air quality studies.”

Chester Yabitsu said that the specific plan calls for 235 to 293 residential units, an element of the development that will snarl traffic in the area. He said that the development will generate an average of more than 17,500 daily trips on Kanan Road. The report called the impact on traffic significant and non-mitigating, according to Yabitsu.

“This is simply nonsense,” said Yabitsu. “Problems always have solutions.” He added that if the solutions to the problems are not cost effective, then perhaps certain aspects of the plan are “not viable.”

The report outlines an option that excludes residential units. Yabitsu prefers this option, and called it a “win-win plan” for the city and residents.

Yabitsu worries that if new residential units are included in the Agoura Village plan, the door will be opened for Triangle Ranch, an 81-home development proposed near Cornell Road in the vicinity of Agoura Village.

Sage Community Group, the developers of the ranch, are waiting to see the outcome of Agoura Village before they make their final plea to the Los Angeles Department of Regional Planning, Yabitsu said. He believes that if the Agoura Village residential units are approved, then Sage could claim discrimination if they aren’t granted the same privilege.

Colleen Holmes, president of the Cornell Preservation Organization, told commissioners that the Agoura Village plan has many “good merits,” but other issues must be addressed. She, too, voiced concern over the Triangle Ranch development, and said that the preservation of the “knoll” was crucial. Holmes added that the developers needed to be sensitive to the plant and animal species in a nearby stream. She recommended that the city staff meet with a noted landscape architect whose focus is environmental sensitivity.

Ken Handler said that while a city center is an “outstanding idea,” he worried about how vehicles would navigate the suggested “roundabout” in the event of an emergency.

“Imagine a catastrophe in the mountains and fire vehicles trying to get through a roundabout— that would bother me a great deal,” Handler said.

“This is going to be a major, major project within the city, perhaps the defining project, identifying our city,” said William Koehler, former chair of the Agoura Hills planning commission who was recently elected to the city council. He encouraged the people who attended the meeting to speak with neighbors about the project and make suggestions to the city. “This is the only way officials can get a barometer of what the community wants.”

Written and e-mailed comments on the Agoura Village Environmental Impact Report are welcomed. Public input will close on Jan. 2.

Allison Cook, planner of the development, said the documents are available for preview on the city’s website www.ci.agourahills.ca.us, at the Agoura Hills library, or for purchase at city hall.

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