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Board OKs development

Residents of nearby Lyons Canyon Project complain housing plan threatens local environment

Posted: March 24, 2009 11:58 p.m.
Updated: March 24, 2009 11:08 p.m.
LOS ANGELES — A proposed development that would uproot 162 oak trees for family and senior housing, which has drawn the ire of nearby residents, is one giant step closer to becoming a reality.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors conditionally approved the housing project, known as Lyons Canyon Ranch, located just west of Newhall.

A final approval could take anywhere from two weeks to two months, said Paul Novak, planning deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.

But the conditional approval wasn’t made without some dissent.

A couple of local residents and two local environmental officials requested that the Board of Supervisors appeal the county’s Regional Planning Commission’s August approval of the Lyons Ranch Project, which would neighbor with Ed Davis Park in Towsley Canyon on The Old Road.

“This is one of our last losses of serene open land,” said Andrew Lorenzan, who lives close to the proposed site. “It’s a loss of indigenous habitats and life. It’s a loss of our oak preserves which have been there for hundreds of years.”

Lorenzan also expressed his problems with possible noise pollution, traffic congestion and the devaluation of homes he felt the project would bring to his community.

The Lyons Canyon Ranch project includes 93 units of senior-citizen housing and 92 single-family dwellings.

The project calls for the removal of 162 small oak trees, the transplanting of 13 big heritage oaks and encroachment of another 52 oaks, six of which are also classified as heritage oaks – trees preserved for their age, size and historic nature.

Despite a passionate appeal on the opposition’s side, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the plan, requesting a few more conditions be written into the plan before it will be brought before the board for final approval at a future date.

“The findings and conditions tend to go through (final approval),” Novak said.

Jasch Janowicz, director of planning for the Daly Group, consultants hired by the project’s developer, D.R. Horton, told the board that mitigation had been offered to plant new trees in the parks and open-space areas as replacement for the removal of others.

That compromise didn’t convince Lynne Plambeck, president of the Santa Clarita Organization of Planning and the Environment (SCOPE) and Cam Noltemeyer, SCOPE board member.

“They say (they’re) going to plant more oaks, but you can’t just mitigate by putting in oaks where they don’t grow naturally,” Plambeck said.

Beyond the plan’s impact to the area’s biology and questions about where the project’s water supply will come from, Plambeck and Noltemeyer’s main concern is the fire danger to seniors.

“The senior housing you are proposing is in a high fire-hazard zone,” said Noltemeyer, as she addressed the board. “I personally have experienced what happened with the Sayre fire and my friends, many senior citizens, lost everything they have.”

One of the conditions Antonovich motioned for was a requirement to include a fire station site within two years of the board’s final approval.

Plambeck thinks the developers used the pull of senior housing to gain approval.

“There’s been several really bad fires in that area,” she said. “They never would have been able to build a project there without senior housing.”

The availability of senior housing is one reason the project gained a motion in favor from Antonovich, according to Novak.

Other favoring factors included a West Ranch Town Council approval letter from 2006, the condition to include a fire station lot, the preservation of 83 percent of the oak trees on the project and the estate-sized single-family lots which meet the county minimum requirement to maintain horses.

Also, the project was originally filed in Santa Clarita as 835-unit subdivision to be annexed into the city of Santa Clarita, Novak said.

“(The) project approved today is 185 units. So it’s less than one-fourth of what was proposed to be annexed into city of Santa Clarita,” he said.

Despite the testimonies of a couple local residents, Noltemeyer said the opposition’s turnout has dwindled as the request made it to the board’s level.

“People were coming down in force at the planning-commission level, but when it gets to this stage it’s hard for people to come out and get off work,” she said.

Plambeck said she will wait and see what happens when the board makes the final approval.


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