Vote set on Triangle Ranch

Groups press Agoura for $2 million toward purchase

An effort to stop the Triangle Ranch development in the shadow of Ladyface Mountain lands before the Agoura Hills City Council on Dec. 13 when the panel is expected to decide whether the city should pony up $2 million toward purchasing the land as open space.

The 320-acre swath of land just north and east of Cornell Road in an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County has been earmarked for 61 custom homes. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority are trying to meet a Dec. 31 deadline to raise $6 million for the first phase of the open-space buyout.

Agoura Hills is being asked to partner with the agencies and contribute $2 million.

Colleen Holmes, president of Cornell Preservation Organization, launched an online petition that she said has been signed by more than 3,500 people, many of whom live in Agoura Hills. She expects to have 5,000 signatures when the petition is presented to the City Council in time for its much-anticipated vote.

“We are trying to protect a rare, 300-plus-acre, biologically diverse parcel of land within the Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Area,” Holmes wrote on the petition site.

“The area consists of many beautiful creeks, a variety of wildlife and endangered plants and flowers. Ladyface Mountain, the local landmark, will be forever negatively impacted by the proposed Triangle Ranch development.”

The Triangle Ranch property is owned by Sage Live Oak LLC, a Newport Beach company.

Although the dispute over Triangle Ranch has gone on for more than 15 years, the issue escalated in October when Joe Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, revealed that his agency was attempting to buy the land from the developer and that financial help from Agoura Hills was needed.

The site is worth an estimated $35 million, but Edmiston said the price is yet to be determined. He hopes that the City of Agoura Hills can contribute funds for the land and clinch the deal.

Agoura Hills Tomorrow, a website created by former mayors of Agoura Hills, is also urging the city to contribute funds to save the land as open space.

The group co-wrote an article, “Saving Triangle Ranch Will Benefit Agoura Hills,” in which they tell the history of the land, the constraints of the Kanan/101 Interchange and the issue of traffic on Kanan that appears to grow worse every year.

“In addition to existing traffic and projected normal growth inside Agoura Hills, the city feared additional traffic burdens from the planned Triangle Ranch development just beyond the city’s southern border,” the article states. “Homes south of the freeway depend on services (schools, shopping, medical care, roads, etc.) inside our city, but even if the area was annexed, residential tax revenue is insufficient to pay for the needed services,” the article goes on to say.

The former mayors group believes Agoura Hills has the money to save the land from development. The city budget, they say, has a “very healthy” general fund reserve of more than $10.5 million, which represents about 65 percent of the city’s annual operating budget.

Paul Edelman, chief of natural resources and planning for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and deputy director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, said the Agoura Hills contribution of $2 million would be capped.

“(The) city pays once and then reaps major benefits with no financial obligation,” he said.

Edelman said the seller of the land has “really strict investor and tax issues that mandated the crazy fast timeline” and a quick decision by the city.

Many residents have spoken out on, the petition page that has some 33,000 supporters. Among the comments:

“Nature has rights and a full environmental impact needs to be done before any construction is started.” — Jacob R.

“We need to ban massive housing developments that destroy wildlife ecosystems.” — Mary F.

“LadyFace mountain is the heart and soul of Agoura Hills. It should be preserved for generations to come.” — Luciane G.

The City Hall meeting on Triangle Ranch begins at 6 p.m.. Dec. 13.