Oct. 16, 2012
Jim Logan, OVN correspondent
Ojai city officials and the owner of a blighted lot downtown could be close to an agreement that would allow the development of the property after nearly two decades of delays.
Jim Miller, the owner of the 1.18-acre lot at 510 E. Ojai Ave., next to the skate park, had approved plans for a commercial development of two buildings totaling nearly 11,000 square feet.
Miller said city Community Development Director Rob Mullane contacted him, “out of nowhere,” to see if he was interested in restarting the project, which was approved by the Planning Commission in December 1994.
Citing what he called the city’s “hospitable, encouraging and proactive environment,” Miller said he was ready to go.
“I have the energy and resources to work on it, but my energy and resources are finite,” he said. “If they approve it, I’ll go to work. If not, I’ll do something else.”
Mullane will bring the project to the Planning Commission at its 6 p.m. meeting tonight for informal review.
“I think he’s pretty serious,” Mullane said. “We’re just bringing this to the Planning Commission as an information item to inform them of what’s happening there.”
Because Miller already has Planning Commission approval, he would need only to resubmit his plans for city review to ensure they conform to current permit codes. Both Mullane and Miller said any changes to the plans would be inconsequential.
Currently, a dilapidated building front dating from the 1940s faces Ojai Avenue. Miller’s approved plans would incorporate that front into the project, which would have a farm-building motif of wood siding and metal roofs. The plans also call for a 600-square-foot restaurant, but Miller said he’s not sure if it will be included in the final development.
The existing building would be remodeled into a one-story structure of 6,460 square feet, with a 1,520-square-foot patio and deck. The second building, which would be oriented west, would be two stories and 4,370 square feet. The property would have 50 parking spaces. Plans show the existing water tower would remain.
Mullane said the farm-building appearance is in keeping with the city’s East Ojai Avenue design guidelines, which call for a look different than the Mission-style Arcade.
Although the project was approved in 1994, it languished until June 2003, when Miller started grading the land. A property line dispute with the Ojai Unified School District, however, put the work on hold. He resolved the dispute, and Miller obtained a series of extensions, and even deposited $600,000 in a local bank to show he was serious about completing the project.
“The money’s actually still there,” he said.
The Ojai Planning Commission meeting begins at 6 p.m. tonight and is held in Council Chambers of Ojai City Hall, 401 S. Ventura St.
Visit www.ci.ojai.ca.us for an agenda and additional information.