AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant This was the second time Moorpark residents refused to expand the city’s borders to accommodate development. “Ventura County will defend the SOAR vote boundaries,” Mikos said. “This is the largest project any developer wanted to get through that required a SOAR vote. We believe in building from within our city. … Growth belongs there.” William Fulton, an author and urban planning expert, said when developers spend millions of dollars on a slick campaign, the project usually loses. The Yes on A6 campaign spent more than $500,000. Opposition groups spent less than $50,000 combined. During the four-year process to get the project approved, the developer spent more than $2 million, plus an additional $250,000 to have the special election. MOORPARK – Their small-town character at stake, Moorpark voters last week defeated a housing plan in the rolling hills north of the city by a 3-1 margin that would have added 6,000 more residents to this east Ventura County suburb. “Nobody wanted to shut the gates to growth completely. They didn’t want it to sprawl out,” said City Councilwoman Roseann Mikos, a staunch opponent of North Park Village and Nature Preserve. “People realize there’s plenty of growth happening within our city.” The development, called Measure A6 on the ballot, was a test of the Save Open-Space and Agricultural Resources ordinance, and in the end, the voters made their voice count, observers said. In 1999, the local electorate adopted SOAR, which subjects projects outside the city lines to a public vote. It contains growth within city boundaries; in this case, the city would have had to annex 3,544 acres of unincorporated county land so the developer could build 1,680 homes. “The voters react adversely because they feel like they must be getting snowed,” said Fulton, a Ventura City Council member. “It’s not about the project. It’s about the campaign. Money does not equal victory when a developer project is on the ballot.” Fulton said the project was an important test to the growth-control measure. Other large-scale housing projects in the cities of Ventura, Santa Paula and Moorpark have suffered the same outcome, including the first incarnation of North Park, called Hidden Creek Ranch. “Some people are saying if this project can’t win, no project can win,” he said. “This is a project where the developer spent several years buying in the school district and other people in the community. But when a project goes to the ballot, the merits don’t matter. … You’ve got to win the campaign. It’s about the perception of the voters. “Voters have to see and understand the benefits and value them and have to feel like they’re winners. It didn’t happen here.” The amenities looked appealing on paper: a recreational lake, nature preserve, sports park, land for a new school and fire station. But opponents stressed the drawbacks: 23,000 daily car trips, 2,500 other homes already approved or slated to be approved within the city limits, loss of wildlife habitat and schools and city infrastructure stretched to their limits. Councilman Clint Harper, who backed the project, said he would not advise the developer to come back with a similar plan because “it would get killed again.” “Right now it would be difficult,” he said. Kim Kilkenny, vice president of Newport Beach-based North Park Communities LLC, said the project failed because the Yes on A6 campaign was not able to effectively communicate with enough voters. About 75 percent of the voters rejected it. “I was surprised by the size of the defeat,” he said. “I thought we had created a special community.” In the next few weeks, the company will review its options, which include getting a project before the county, going back to Moorpark with an alternative plan or selling the property. “We did not plan for defeat,” Kilkenny said. “It’s not like we had a Plan B sitting on the shelf. I don’t know what we’re going to do.” Angie Valencia-Martinez, (805) 583-7604 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!