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Newhall Ranch environmental report to be released

Newhall Land and Farming development to move forward despite bankruptcy proceedings

Posted: April 24, 2009 10:14 p.m.
Updated: April 25, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 

While its parent company deals with bankruptcy proceedings, Newhall Land and Farming Co. is moving ahead with its Valencia-sized development west of Santa Clarita.

On Monday the company will release the draft environmental impact statement and environmental impact report for the Newhall Ranch project.

Company officials expect construction to begin on the 21,000-home, 12,000-acre community with the next three or four years.

Newhall Ranch will be Newhall Land's last major project. It also will be one of the last major community developments in the general Los Angeles region, company spokeswoman Marlee Lauffer said Friday.

"This is kind of a major milestone for us," she said. "This is a holistic view of (Newhall Ranch), so we're not looking at the environmental resources from a piecemeal standpoint."

The public review period for the document starts Monday and ends June 26. A public hearing is set for June 11 at 6:30 p.m. at Rancho Pico Middle School.

The report is a daunting document, topping out at nearly 16,000 pages - two-thirds of which is appendices - and filling 16 fat three-ring binders.

The Newhall Ranch Specific Plan was approved in 2003 by the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission, and the EIR was compiled over the last five years at a cost of "millions," Lauffer said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Fish and Game are the lead agencies overseeing the EIR. Lauffer said Newhall Land expects the Army Corps to make its final decision on the report in early 2010.

If the EIR is approved, Newhall Land can begin obtaining the necessary permits required for Newhall Ranch.

The tentative tract map has already received regional planning and still needs to be approved by the county Board of Supervisors, Lauffer said.

There are several conservation goals in the EIR, said Mark Subbotin, Newhall Land's vice president of community development.

As part of Newhall Ranch's development, 5,700 acres of high country will be set aside as open space. In addition, 970 acres of the Santa Clara River will be protected, and five areas are set aside for protection of the spineflower.

The high country will be managed by a Newhall Ranch resident-funded joint-powers authority, which Subbotin said would be composed of Los Angeles County, the city of Santa Clarita and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

Over the last year, LandSource Communities Development, LLC - Newhall Land's owner - has been in the throes of reorganization after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Lauffer said the debtor-in-possession financing Newhall Land received during the reorganization has allowed the EIR work to continue.

Starting Monday, the draft EIR will be available for review online at www.dfg.ca.gov/regions/5/newhall, and at local libraries.

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