2012-06-22 / Front Page
Campus plans are talk of the town
Oxnard Union to its hold June 28 board meeting in Camarillo
To ward off misunderstandings about the role the City of Camarillo and other government agencies play in the construction of a proposed new high school, Mayor Jan McDonald requested that discussion about the project be included on the City Council’s June 13 agenda.
McDonald’s decision to hold a public discussion about the proposed school stems from feedback she received from residents concerned that the city is “delaying the process.”
The high school, which would be part of Oxnard Union High School District, is slated to be built behind the Camarillo Library off Las Posas Road on farmland that lies just outside the city limits.
The $60-million project will be funded through Measure H, a ballot initiative passed in November 2004 that gave the district $135 million in bond money to renovate existing high schools and build two new campuses— one in Oxnard and another in Camarillo.
The campus will be smaller than originally planned and will initially accommodate 700 students. School population could eventually expand to 1,000 if needed.
Representatives from Save Open-space and Agricultural Resources asked the City Council to gauge community sentiment about the project by putting it on the ballot in November. The council could put one of two types of votes on the ballot, an advisory or a binding vote.
The advisory vote would pose questions to voters about the project and serve as a tool for the council to determine voters’ views on key elements of the project.
Abinding vote would take away the council’s ability to approve or disapprove required elements of the project, including the annexation of 27 acres of the property by the Local Agency Formation Commission. If the land is not annexed, the campus cannot be built.
None of the five members of the City Council liked the idea of putting the project to a vote. Instead they favored continuing discussions between the city, school district and residents.
Both Oxnard Union and the City Council have hosted town hall meetings to inform residents about plans for the new campus and to give them the opportunity to express any concerns they may have.
In an unofficial online poll by the Camarillo Acorn, 75 percent of the 318 votes cast were in favor of the campus as it is currently proposed.
Councilmember Kevin Kildee said he’s concerned a vote could set an unfavorable precedent for future projects brought before the city, fearing applicants would be “afraid to bring a project before this council or future councils.”
“I want to get past this and continue to have dialogue,” he said.
Councilmember Don Waunch said he wants the project to proceed as planned and revisions to the campus’ plan should be done through ongoing discussions between residents and the school district.
“I favor the normal process,” Councilmember Charlotte Craven said. “We annexed 10 acres a few years ago for our library, and we never even considered going to a vote. We have a representative form of government. We are elected to use our good judgment to review everything that comes our way.”
Councilmember Mike Morgan wants more time to talk to Oxnard Union officials about the project and what the district plans to do to further enhance the facilities at Adolfo Camarillo High School.
McDonald said she also favors continued discussions about the project.
“It is better to have these conversations along the way than if it falls apart at the end,” McDonald said. “I don’t think there is enough information out there for the community yet to make a decision.”
Camarillo resident Deborah Creadick said a vote will be divisive and agrees with the council that continued community dialogue is needed
“I haven’t talked to anybody who is against a new high school,” Creadick said. “I’m not against a new high school. I’m against a new high school if it drains all the resources.”
The next step for the project is for Oxnard Union’s consultants to conduct environmental studies of the site.
The outcome of the report will be open to public comment. Findings from the report and public comments will be addressed by the district.
Once that step is complete, the city, on behalf of Oxnard Union, will apply to LAFCo, an independent agency that must review boundary changes for cities and special districts.
Annexing the land into Camarillo will enable the site to be eligible for city services such as water, police, flood control and landscaping.
The next regularly scheduled Oxnard Union High School District board meeting will be Thurs., June 28 at the City Council chambers.
Superintendent Gabe Soumakian will present an update on the proposed new high school and offer the community the opportunity to make comments to the board.