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Suit Settlement Clears the Way for Newhall Ranch

April 01, 2004|Karima A. Haynes | Times Staff Writer

Newhall Land & Farming Co. has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by three environmental groups opposed to the developer's plan to build a massive residential community in the Santa Clarita Valley, company officials said Wednesday.

The agreement dismisses an outstanding appeal, resolves all pending litigation against the Newhall Ranch development and clears the way for the company to use its specific plan to build 20,885 homes.

The Sierra Club, Friends of the Santa Clara River and Santa Clarita Organization for Planning the Environment in late December filed the appeal of a Kern County Superior Court ruling.

Under the terms of the settlement, Newhall Land must provide the county with annual reports of groundwater usage and documentation on farmland no longer in use, said Marlee Lauffer, a company spokeswoman.

In addition, Newhall Land will ensure that all groundwater previously used for agricultural purposes will meet the state health department's drinking water standards, Lauffer said.

Newhall Land also agreed to pay $43,000 toward attorney fees for the environmental groups' lawyers, Lauffer said.

Opponents of Newhall Ranch have suffered some major setbacks, including the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors' decision to approve the project in May as well as a Kern County judge's ruling in October rejecting the environmental groups' effort to block the planned development.

Even so, the environmentalists said they plan to fight the more detailed, block-by-block plans that the developer must now submit for further Los Angeles County approval.

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