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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : City Naming of Overseers for Plan Delayed : Redevelopment: School and business officials persuade Santa Clarita council to postpone action.


SANTA CLARITA — The battle continues over which parts of the public and private sectors will oversee this city's 30-year redevelopment plan that could include up to $1.1 billion in projects.

The Santa Clarita City Council was supposed to establish the hierarchy of overseers of the plan Tuesday night, but withheld a decision after school and business officials complained of having too little input.

"There is insufficient (opportunity) for two-way communication," said Connie Worden-Roberts, president of a local business park association. She went on to complain that business groups that presented their suggestions for the plan to the council have never gotten any feedback.

College of the Canyons Trustee Bruce Fortine tried to dispel rumors that the educational community has put its stamp of approval on the plan. He said school officials also have felt shut out of the process.

"Contrary to rumors, there is no buy-in (from school districts) to the plan," Fortine said. "There is no buy-in, because we haven't seen it."

The council authorized the redevelopment plan in February to help Santa Clarita recover from the Northridge earthquake, improve its infrastructure, redevelop blighted areas and build affordable housing.

The council is planning on future property tax increases to pay for the redevelopment projects.

Council members have several options regarding controls over the redevelopment process. They could retain the authority themselves, grant it to an independent board or create a mixed governing body of themselves and other members.

Residents advisory groups, which have no voting authority, can also be created to discuss specific projects.

None of the options were universally popular.

Some residents said they want the council to remain in control because its members are answerable to the voters.

"You are accountable. You are elected," resident Allan Cameron told the council Tuesday. "You must remain in control."

Donald Duckworth, a redevelopment consultant hired by the city, agreed. He advised the council that independent boards and mixed rule slow down agency proceedings.

Others at the meeting were concerned that making the council the sole overseer of the plan gave it too much power.

"I don't think that . . . is what the community wants," said Chris Townsley, head of a residents group that was formed to watchdog the redevelopment plan.

Earlier this month, representatives of Santa Clarita's chambers of commerce and school districts offered conditional support for the plan, saying they must have "meaningful participation" in its governance.

On Tuesday, representatives of the chambers of commerce and school officials complained that questions they previously asked about the plan have been ignored.

"And we hope this isn't the way the process is going to continue," said school Trustee Joan MacGregor.

Council members agreed to delay their decision.

"I think this needs to be administered fairly and I don't see it in these options," Councilwoman Jan Heidt said.

The total value of the projects in Santa Clarita's redevelopment plan has not yet been determined.

City officials originally called for $1.1 billion in projects, but has since offered to limit the plan to $854 million as a way to settle a lawsuit filed by the Castaic Lake Water Agency. That lawsuit, still pending, calls for the water agency to directly receive some of the funds generated by proposed tax increases.

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