The Lowe’s real estate people are going to have to look for one more site this week, because their prime location in Westlake Village has been rejected by the City Council. The vote on January 19th. was 2-2, and Lowe’s loses in a tie. The citizen’s group that was aggressively opposing this project, WLV United, predicted on their website how the vote would turn out. Mayor Pro Tem Jim Bruno and Mayor Susan McSweeney voted against the project. “I have been very concerned about the size of the Lowe’s portion of the project,” McSweeney told The Acorn newspaper. “It is a very well run business, however, I think when we look at the future, we really have to think what would happen if that was no longer Lowe’s. What we would have is a very large building that I’m not sure we would have very much control over what would come there.” WLV United said the project would congest traffic and hurt the business community. “The defeat of the Lowe’s project is Westlake’s last chance to maintain our small town flavor,” the group wrote on its website. The project needed a rezoning from its current “office” classification, to “retail.” Rotkin Real Estate Group, which developed the plan, wanted to build a 168,000 s.f. Lowe’s, a 20,000 s.f. car dealership, plus 62,000 s.f. of retail space on just 22 acres of land. The land is zoned for a 376,000 s.f. office complex. Before the vote, the citizens predicted that “the decision on Lowe’s will essentially turn on the one vote of Mayor Susan McSweeney. She has indicated to many of us that she has grave concerns about the project and wants to represent the community’s sentiment, which she acknowledges is against the project. On the other hand, Councilman Rutherford, Councilman Slavin (who is disqualified from voting on the project) and a few individuals with special interests are putting serious pressure on Susan to vote in favor of the project. Susan has not publicly announced her vote, but she will be the deciding vote (a tie kills the project).” In the end, the group pretty accurately predicted what would happen. “One of the charms of Westlake Village is that it is a small community. Most everybody knows everybody else… The defeat of the Lowe’s project is Westlake’s last chance to maintain our small town flavor.” This week, Lowe’s is out, and small town flavor is in.
WLV United was prepared to challenge the Lowe’s vote if the retailer won. “If the council votes to approve the Lowe’s, we intend to gather the signatures to defeat the project. We have gathered the names of about 950 people who have expressed their opposition. We intend to contact each of them, and to seek their signatures to a petition to place the Lowe’s project on the ballot for a referendum ( i.e. a vote of residents on the project). We only need about 600 signatures to be successful in placing the issue on the ballot.” Now that effort wont’ be needed, because Lowe’s is history. To read more, go to wlvunited.com. The next step for this community is to place a cap on the size of buildings to prevent this kind of sprawl from coming back.