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OPENING CANCELED POWER-LINE MOVE HAS REED'S FURNITURE, AGOURA HILLS AT ODDS.

Byline: Cecilia Chan Staff Writer

AGOURA HILLS - Reed's Furniture had to cancel the long-planned Memorial Day weekend opening of its Canwood Street outlet store after the city refused to issue a certificate of occupancy.

The point of contention is whether the furniture store has to pay the estimated $100,000 cost of moving four nearby power lines underground, said David Merrihugh, a Westlake Village attorney representing Reed's.

Merrihugh said the store owners had been told they could join an assessment district rather than paying for the underground utilities, while city officials say owners knew years ago they would have to move the poles.

``I think it smacks of extortion,'' said Dru Wickman, an owner of the furniture company. ``They didn't tell us anything until one week before we attempted to get final approval.

``The (city building) inspector was out numerous times to inspect the property. They could have asked us to do this when we had the streets ripped up. They had ample time and they told us one week before occupancy,'' he said.

But Agoura Hills City Attorney Craig Steele said the condition was included in a permit issued to owners three years ago.

``The city has throughout the course of the project bent over backward to help them through the process,'' Steele said. ``It's an important project to the city and one we want to see open but at the same time there is a law in the city that says utility needs to be put underground and that is a condition not complied with and what they need to do before they can get moving.''

He also said there were other conditions that kept city officials from issuing a certificate of occupancy for the 60,000-square-foot building.

``There was no way that building was available for occupancy for (last) weekend regardless of the dispute over this condition,'' Steele said. ``The store is not finished.''

Wickman said they had hired 15 new employees to staff the Agoura Hills store, which was to move from its Thousand Oaks location.

``We can't start them until we open it up. It's just crazy,'' he said.

The company already has another store in Agoura Hills, a design showroom on Roadside Drive.

This isn't the first time Reed's Furniture has come head to head with the city.

Earlier this month the City Council rejected an appeal for a bronze sculpture proposed for the Canwood store as part of the city's Art in Public Places Program. Officials said the piece was too commercial for the program, which requires developers who construct a building larger than 30,000 square feet to donate an artwork.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo: (color -- ran in Conejo edition only) A refusal to issue a certificate of occupancy delayed the Memorial Day weekend opening of the Reed's Furniture store in Agoura Hills on Canwood Street.

Tina Burch/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 31, 2000
Words:478
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