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Ventura County Perspective | Second Opinions

County Line Defines a Debate About Growth

L.A. County supervisors approved Newhall Ranch but added safeguards for ground water, the Santa Clara River, high country and neighboring land in Ventura County.

April 11, 1999|MICHAEL D. ANTONOVICH | Michael D. Antonovich is a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors

The Times editorial "Stand Firm on Newhall Ranch" (March 28), regarding the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors' approval of Newhall Ranch, fails to acknowledge the many concessions made by the board to address the legitimate concerns of Ventura County.

Besides adding environmental safeguards to protect the Santa Clara River, the high country and neighboring land in Ventura County, the board added several conditions in response to Ventura County's concerns regarding the protection of the ground water basin.

It must be emphasized that the board's unanimous approval of the Newhall Ranch specific plan does not authorize the release of a single building permit or permit any extensive grading of the site. Rather, approval of the specific plan only provides a framework for consideration of subsequent development applications through a future public hearing process. Any construction would depend on approval of future subdivision map applications that, before they were filed, would have to clearly identify a specific source of supply for its water. A "will-serve" letter from the local water company would not suffice to meet this test.

The board was very sensitive to the needs of Ventura County--particularly those relating to the protection of its ground water supplies. Besides imposing the requirement that the developer identify its source of supply at the time it files its subdivision map application, the board, in a direct response to Ventura County's concerns, required that an annual water report be prepared to address all of the water-related issues facing both the Santa Clarita Valley and the downstream Santa Clara River Valley.

We also required, at the request of Ventura County's United Water Conservation District, that an additional ground water metering station be provided at Blue Cut in the Ventura County portion of the river. These three additional requirements were in direct response to Ventura County's complaints.

The Castaic Lake Water Agency is in the process of purchasing 41,000 acre-feet of additional water from Ventura County to supplement its existing sources. However, if that purchase falls through and Newhall cannot prove that adequate supplies exist from other sources, the specific plan will prevent approval of the subdivision maps and the resulting building permits. No building can occur until the applicant proves to the public hearing process that there are sufficient sources of supply to meet its needs.

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It should also be noted that the board made a number of other concessions to Ventura County. We added a half-mile buffer between the development and Ventura County properties as well as an extensive affordable housing component to reduce the development's impacts on the cities of Fillmore and Santa Paula. The river itself would not be a concrete channeled river, but would be left in a natural appearance to further protect the environment.

Finally, the 6 1/2-square-mile high country (which is larger than Griffith Park) would become a park operated by the city of Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy through a joint powers agency. Trails would be provided along the river and in the high country to facilitate public use.

Unlike the problems created by Ventura County's approval of the Ahmanson Ranch project, the record is clear that all legitimate concerns expressed by Ventura County were fully addressed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

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