A state parks agency and a private developer have joined forces to buy land in a move that could hinder development of a proposed dump in Towsley Canyon in the Santa Clarita Valley and boost prospects for a new state park there, officials confirmed Monday.
The complex deal calls for Rivendale Ranch Associates to acquire 271 acres in Towsley Canyon, with most of the money coming from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. Rivendale would turn over the land to the conservancy, a state agency that cannot purchase the property directly because of state law.
In return, the development firm, which is in bankruptcy proceedings, would get an infusion of cash and take a step toward having a wilderness park, and not a trash dump, for a neighbor.
Towsley is one of four canyons ringing the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys recently identified by the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts as suitable landfill sites.
Park planners and environmentalists envision the canyon as a key part of a proposed Santa Clarita Woodlands State Park, stretching north from the Santa Susana Mountains above Granada Hills into the Santa Clarita Valley. As a result, the mountains conservancy has been competing with the sanitation districts for the land.
A long-awaited feasibility study on the proposed state park is expected to be released today by the state Department of Parks and Recreation.
The 271-acre tract lies west of the Golden State Freeway near the city of Santa Clarita, in an area the districts want for a dump.
Joel Brandon, co-owner of the property, said Monday that he and his partners have agreed to sell the land to Rivendale for $4.5 million.
The Whittier-based sanitation districts have purchased options on about 1,500 acres in Towsley Canyon, but are competing with the conservancy for the Brandon tract in the heart of the canyon.
Officials of the districts said Monday that the deal would not make development of a dump impossible.
"I don't want to comment on how important Brandon is because it's intimate to the negotiations," said Steve Maguin, solid-waste chief for the districts.
If the conservancy were to acquire the Brandon tract, "it would probably affect our plan," Maguin said. "I guarantee you it would not kill our plan . . . to fill the canyon."
The Rivendale-conservancy deal, is contingent on approval by the conservancy's board, which may vote on the issue next week.
Owners of the Brandon property sought $4.5 million, a price the conservancy legally could not pay. State law bars the agency from paying more for land than appraised value, and an appraisal pegged the property's worth at $3.5 million.
To come up with the extra $1 million for the Brandon land, the conservancy struck a deal with Rivendale. The conservancy is to pay Rivendale $3.5 million for a 20-acre tract near the mouth of Towsley Canyon. Rivendale essentially would keep $2.5 million and apply the other $1 million of the sale funds toward purchase of the Brandon property. That $1 million, plus another $3.5 million from the conservancy--the money the state agency is able to pay--would allow Rivendale to pay the $4.5 million asked for the Brandon property.
Rivendale would then give the land to the conservancy, which would acquire a total of 291 acres for $7 million.