Right, Harold Edwards, President and CEO of Limoneira Company, and Santa Paula Councilmember John Procter are all smiles as the early returns for Measure G are flashed on the big screen TV at the Limoneira Pavillion Tuesday evening. (Photo by Don Johnson)

Measure G passes with 82% of vote

June 06, 2008
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesThe renderings of what would become of more than 500 acres if developed with up to 1,500 homes, parks, open space, schools and an amphitheater surrounded those supporters who waited at the Limoneira Pavilion to learn the fate of Teague-McKevett Ranch/East Area 1, which came a step closer to reality with the overwhelming support of Santa Paula voters in Tuesday’s election.Measure G, which sought to bring the property east of the city into the urban boundary border as well as bypass Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources (SOAR) mandates, was approved by more than a wide margin by a blowout of 2,644 (82.57 percent) yes votes. Only 558 voters (17.43 percent) rejected the measure.It is unknown how many of the approximately 9,000 provisional and absentee ballots that remain to be tallied are from Santa Paula, but the outcome will have little effect on the results from the present 3,202 total votes that already represent a landslide.Before 8 p.m. when the tally of absentee ballots received by Friday were released by the county Elections Division, Limoneira President/CEO Harold Edwards said that supporters have been working hard and “not taking anything for granted... and we’ve been accentuating the positive” of the proposed development. “I was even walking today and nobody threw anything at me,” a good sign, Edwards added with a laugh.Supporter Cynthia Dunbar said she was positive that voters would approve the plan, and noted that many said they had already voted and “were real positive” when contacted by campaign volunteers. When the absentee votes were reported shortly after 8 p.m. - 1,215 yes and only 267 no - the Pavilion erupted with cheers.“I’m very excited,” said Edwards. “It’s a new brand new day for Santa Paula.”Alan Teague, chairman of the Limoneira Board of Directors, agreed: “We’re happy for the people and the city of Santa Paula... we’re delighted and appreciate the community support.” The passage of Measure G, he added, “signifies a great future for Santa Paula,” with housing, employment opportunities and recreation, as well as more revenue for city coffers. Teague said the development will “keep Santa Paula as it is... just better.”Councilman John Procter said he was not surprised that the measure seemed solidly on the road to victory, although “I’m blown away by the margins, it’s amazing.”“Wow,” said Mayor Bob Gonzales. “If the absentee ballots are any indication, it’s sending a resounding message that the citizens want a certain kind of growth” centered on the middle class housing.
Limoneira Company has “been like the godfather of Santa Paula for more than a century.... Now it’s off to LAFCO,” which still must approve the project, but Gonzales added, “With these kind of numbers, I don’t see a problem.”The success of Measure G represents the largest expansion into farmland since SOAR was implemented more than a decade ago.Limoneira Company, a Santa Paula agribusiness firm founded 115 years ago, also plans to build a 100-unit assisted living center, fire station/police storefront, retail, offices and various public amenities on the property. Limoneira has agreed to pay the city more than $6 million in lieu of building low-income housing, and will make a $5.5 million contribution toward construction of the wastewater treatment plant.There was no organized opposition to Measure G, as supporters argued that the town with the lowest median household income in the county needed growth, especially through a project that would have little traffic impacts.Teague-McKevett Ranch/East Area 1 sits on the edge of a 34,000-acre Santa Paula - Fillmore Greenbelt, a fact that has brought concerned comment from the Fillmore City Council. Now that Measure G has passed, city officials will be asking the boundary-setting panel known as LAFCO to allow annexation.Edwards said he expects the project will be presented to LAFCO in about nine-months. With LAFCO’s approval groundbreaking is expected in the first half of 2010, with the first of up to 100 homes completed by 2012.“We only want what’s best for Santa Paula,” a message prominent in the low-profile and low-cost campaign, said Edwards. “This is just wonderful.”

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