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Developer, D.A. May Settle Case

November 21, 2002|Richard Fausset | Times Staff Writer

Attorneys for Newhall Land & Farming Co. will meet with prosecutors Monday in an effort to settle a criminal charge the company is facing for bulldozing a streambed on the site of the proposed 21,600-home Newhall Ranch subdivision.

The Los Angeles County district attorney charged the company in September with one misdemeanor count of altering a streambed after officials from the California Department of Fish and Game noticed the damage in a flyover of the site near Santa Clarita.

The company, which has pleaded not guilty to the charge, faces up to $1,000 in fines if convicted. If a settlement is not reached, a jury trial will begin next week in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Newhall Land was also the subject of a recent investigation by state Fish and Game officials who suspected the company was destroying habitats of the San Fernando Valley spineflower, a state-listed endangered species, on the site of the proposed subdivision. Fish and Game investigators searched the site in May and found evidence of the flowers.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Maureen O'Brien said Wednesday that the district attorney's office declined to file charges in the case because it was submitted after the one-year statute of limitations had expired.

Newhall Land spokeswoman Marlee Lauffer said Wednesday that the company had done nothing wrong: "From the beginning we've said there have been no violations."

The Newhall Ranch project, which would be one of the largest in the county, was initially approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in early 1999, but environmental groups and others challenged the project in court, arguing that its environmental review was insufficient.

Supervisors will consider a revised environmental report on Jan. 28. It is to include updated information on the company's plans to protect the spineflower and an endangered sunflower found on the site this year.

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