Thousand Oaks spends $38,000 to buy land

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Land will be preserved as open space

Source of this article: The Thousand Oaks Acorn, November 29, 2012

In a move city leaders say will protect additional open space in Thousand Oaks, the city has agreed to purchase less than an acre of land identified as a priority for preservation by the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency.

On Nov. 20, the City Council voted unanimously to acquire two parcels—each less than a halfacre in size—located on a hillside about 800 feet southwest of Willow Lane and Fairview Road not far from the 101 Freeway.

PROTECTED—Last week the City Council approved the purchase of two small parcels near the center of Thousand Oaks. It intends to donate the land to the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency. Courtesy of City of Thousand Oaks

The properties, which are about 500 feet apart, border Skyline open space owned by COSCA, a joint powers agency between the Conejo Recreation and Park District and the City of Thousand Oaks.The acquisition will expand the area to 60 acres and add to the city’s current open space stock of 15,500 acres.

The city has reached tentative agreements with both sellers to purchase the parcels, which are near a city water reservoir, at the appraised value of $17,000 each, a staff report said. The total cost is $38,000 for both parcels, which includes $2,000 each in closing costs. The money to purchase the land will come from the city’s Community Recreation Facilities and Open Space Acquisition and Maintenance Endowment Fund.

The city previously contributed $100,000 a year to the account, which has accumulated $1.5 million, said Councilmember Andy Fox. The fund can be used only for open space or recreationrelated purposes.

“In times when financial diffi culties are tough and cities are making tough choices, this endowment fund which the council set up a number of years ago was done precisely for this,” Fox said at last Tuesday’s meeting. “That’s the forward thinking that the city has looked at . . . in terms of purchasing open space.

“If we had done this on a piecemeal basis, I think it’s fair to say we wouldn’t have the dollars to buy some of these smaller parcels or even the large ones.”

Councilmember Claudia Billde la Peña suggested that the city resume contributing to the open space fund.

“Thankfully the city had the vision to establish the endowment fund,” she said.

Once the deal is final, the city will give the properties to COSCA in accordance with the open space element of the city’s General Plan, which recommends the transfer of most city-owned open space parcels to the agency for long-term stewardship, a staff report said.

The purchase “is part of an ongoing effort by staff to work with willing sellers to preserve the remaining parcels within the planned ring of open space around the city,” the report said.

In 2002, the council authorized staff to obtain appraisals of the properties and begin preliminary negotiations with the owners of properties listed on COSCA’s priority list of areas for potential purchase as open space, a staff report said.

Shelly Austin, COSCA associate planner, said city staff sent letters to owners of parcels on the list in May and received responses from the owners of the two Skyline lots, which are diffi cult to develop.

“Both are excited to sell as open space. They have owned the parcels for a long time,” Austin said.