Home Depot ballot measure will be delayed until January

Acorn Staff Writer

An Agoura Hills group fighting the proposed Home Depot on Agoura Road will postpone until January a special election aimed at keeping the large retailer out.

Citizens for Responsible Growth hoped to place an initiative on the November ballot barring future "big box" stores from coming to Agoura Hills, but a group spokesman said they couldn’t meet an Aug. 10 deadline for approval by city and county officials.

The referendum would enact a zoning change prohibiting all retail stores greater than 60,000 square feet in Agoura Hills. Plans for Home Depot, which would be built one-half mile west of Kanan Road and just south of the 101 Freeway, call for 140,000 square feet, including a 24,300 square-foot outdoor garden center.

Current zoning laws prohibit large stores from being built in the freeway corridor zone unless they meet certain conditions. Big box stores generally cannot be within 500 feet of homes, for example. The laws are intended to protect the many residents on the north side of the freeway. It was determined the south side of the freeway, the proposed location of Home Depot, would be safe for big box development since few homes are nearby.

Opponents say no matter where they’re located that mega-retailers create traffic congestion on roads, bridges and intersections, as well as noise and air pollution.

The Woodland Hills-based Citizens group hoped to launch a petition drive to gain ballot approval, but fell behind schedule. City Attorney Craig Steele and City Manager Dave Adams met last week with Al Abrams, the group’s spokesman, to discuss the deadlines.

"I was kind of surprised to hear at our meeting they hadn’t begun to circulate the petitions to gather signatures," Steele said. "The election process is real calendar drive and once you get within that 88-day period, which is what August 10th is, there are umpteen deadlines that have to be complied to put a measure on the ballot officially."

Abrams said neither side was at fault, but because of time constraints it would be "impossible" to put the Home Depot initiative on the November ballot. He said his group could still force a special election at a later date, possibly January.

The cost for such an election would be $25,000, according to the city clerk. Abrams said he hoped the Agoura Hills City Council would enact new zoning in the meantime.

"What we would hope is that the city council might just consider adopting this zoning change," Abrams said. "If it’s adopted into law, it would save everybody a lot of embarrassment because if [the city] loses at the polls it’s kind of a vote of no confidence for them."

The November initiative needed signatures from 10 percent of the city’s registered voters, but to force a special election requires 15 percent or 1,878 signatures. Abrams feels confident his group will succeed.

"Special elections tend to bring out the devotees of a particular cause and because we feel pretty strongly that we have a huge majority of citizens feeling the way they do—that a big box would not be a good thing in the city of Agoura Hills, that this doesn’t hurt us at all," Abrams said.

Home Depot would be part of a 255,300 square-foot shopping mall proposal called Ladyface Village Center. The shopping center, not yet completely proposed, has been in the planning stages for over a year by Westlake Village-developer Dan Selleck.

Citizens for Responsible Growth also is fighting the proposed Hampton Inn Hotel on Agoura Road, just west of Reyes Adobe Road, an area not currently zoned for hotels. It would have 94 rooms and 51,980 square feet. A public hearing on that project is scheduled for 7 p.m. next Wed., July 25 at city hall.

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