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Santa Clarita Prepares to Oppose Newhall Ranch

Development: Council will urge county to halt the current proposal due to impact on environment and infrastructure.

January 11, 1997|GREG SANDOVAL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SANTA CLARITA — Labeling it "unbridled urban sprawl," the city of Santa Clarita is gearing up to oppose a planned development that would increase the population of the Santa Clarita Valley by 50%.

Four of the five City Council members said Friday they would vote Tuesday for a proposed statement of objections to the 70,000-person Newhall Ranch project--potentially the largest master-planned community in Los Angeles County history.

Contending that the project just outside the city limits would harm the environment and does not adequately offset the impact it would have on Santa Clarita's already overburdened facilities and services, the council is planning to urge the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission to halt plans for Newhall Ranch in its current form.

The developer, Newhall Land & Farm Co., is asking the commission for a General Plan amendment and zone changes on 19 square miles of grazing land west of Magic Mountain. The changes are among the steps needed before the company can begin building the project, which would put more than 25,000 homes on almost 12,000 acres.

The Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing Thursday to hear opposition to the project, and city officials plan to raise their concerns at that time.

"This project, as it stands today, must be denied," read a draft of the request by Councilwoman Jill Klajic. "You must tell the developer to come back with a project that stays within the county's and city's present General Plan."

In Klajic's motion, she listed environmental concerns over the project's impact on the Santa Susana Mountains, the Salt Creek Corridor and the Santa Clara River.

Klajic also says the development company needs to provide details on its plans to pay for such items as sewers, roads, schools and mass transit.

"We think it's a responsible plan," said Marlee Lauffer, spokeswoman for Newhall Land.

Lauffer pointed to the company's plan to preserve 96% of the area's 16,314 oak trees and its pledge to set aside 5,852 acres of the land as open space.

"We think the Newhall Ranch project will be a good neighbor," she said.

The city's action may have little effect on the development, however. Newhall Ranch would sit on land under the county's jurisdiction.

Despite calls to annex the Newhall Ranch property by some council members, Santa Clarita Mayor Clyde Smyth says there are no plans for that.

"You can't annex property unless the owner wants it," Smyth said Friday. "All we can do is raise issues. There are serious concerns over the project, and I would hope [Newhall Land] would help to solve them as they've done in the past."

Gail Ortiz, spokeswoman for Santa Clarita, said Newhall Land has been good in the past at providing proper infrastructure, but the current plans are too big for its neighbors.

"Open space is the reason people have come to Santa Clarita," Ortiz said. "What [Newhall Land] wants to do is pave over paradise and put up a parking lot."

Newhall Land says the project, with its 15-acre lake, 12 parks, golf course and "miles and miles of pedestrian pathways" will offer many benefits to neighboring communities.

A Ventura County environmental group also announced plans this week to oppose the project. Save Open Space said the planned community, which would border Ventura County, is incompatible with existing Santa Clarita Valley homes.

The group is asking that no zoning changes be granted by the commission and that any zoning or General Plan changes should be voted on by Santa Clarita city residents.

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