Lowe’s home improvement store is a two-time loser in Westlake Village, California. Sprawl-Busters reported on January 21, 2006 that the City Council had voted 2-2 to deny rezoning of office uses for a commercial big box on 22 acres of land. But Lowe’s was not done. Working through a citizen’s front group, headed by a former Mayor of the city, the Lowe’s issue was put on the ballot so that voters could decide the store’s fate. On November 7, 2006, 55% of those who voted, around 1,907 voters, rejected “Measure Z,” which would have paved the way for the 168,000 s.f. Lowe’s project. 1,539 voters supported the plan. Former Mayor Kris Carraway-Bowman told the Ventura County Star, “We gave it our best shot, and this is what the community wants.” What the voters didn’t want was the “Town Center at Westlake Village,” which the city rejected 10 months ago. Lowe’s bought the land in February; shortly after their first defeat, and then in April plans were unveiled for the ballot measure. Opponents focused on the use of the ballot process for a zoning decision, and warned of the additional traffic problems that would result. Councilman Jim Bruno, who voted against the project originally, told the newspaper after the vote, “We need to send a message to the development community of what the residents of Westlake Village would be responsive to on that parcel… In the end I think people did the right thing and really exercised their right of self-determination in defeating this.” Lowe’s is not expected to sell the land. Bruno credited residents with running a grassroots campaign against the project, and he later extended an olive branch.
Residents in Westlake Village told Sprawl-Busters that this was the largest voter turnout in the city’s history. When Lowe’s didn’t get their rezoning, they figured that going to the ballot would work. After all, they could spend as much money as they wanted, and citizens could never match their spending. But often voters will reject the big box stores, especially when it’s seen as an end run around the normal zoning process. The ballot question was to rezone land, and there is a normal process for that. Most companies would respect the City Council’s vote, but big box stores like Lowe’s don’t like to accept democracy when it doesn’t go their way. To see earlier stories, search Newsflash by “Westlake Village.” To see the group’s website, go to www.wlvunited.com