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Court gives go ahead to Newhall project

Industrial park would add 4.2M square feet of commercial space

Posted: May 14, 2009 8:38 p.m.
Updated: May 15, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Environmentalists’ opposition to an industrial park planned for Newhall was overturned this week, nearly three years after the filing of an appeal of the project’s environmental impact report.

The second district state Court of Appeals overturned Wednesday an appeal filed in fall 2006 after the approval of the revised EIR for the Gate King Industrial Park by Santa Clarita city officials. The park is slated for development on several hundred acres near the intersection of Sierra Highway and Pine Street.

The appeal was filed by Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment — or SCOPE — and the California Oak Foundation, citing concerns over the project’s water supply.

“We’re gratified that the court of appeals upheld our EIR,” developer Mark Gates said Thursday afternoon. “We look forward to developing a place to bring jobs.”

The next steps, he said, are to identify tenants for the park and work on the grading plans and various permits required for development.

Given the current economic climate, Gates said it is difficult to project when construction could begin.

When completed, the complex — including 4.2 million square feet of commercial space — will take up about 40 percent of the 508-acre site. The remaining acreage of the site will likely be set aside as open space.

The industrial park was first approved by the Santa Clarita City Council in June 2003, but was held up by lawsuits involving three local environmental groups including SCOPE — action that in 2005 resulted in the city receiving a court order to redo the EIR’s water analysis, which was deemed to be inadequate.

Environmentalists have alleged that the complex would require much more water than would be available.

A revised water assessment was circulated in early 2006, reporting sufficient water to be supplied by the Newhall County Water District, the Castaic Lake Water Agency and the Department of Water Resources’ state water project.

The appeal overturned this week was filed in fall 2006.

“The court really got it wrong,” SCOPE President Lynne Plambeck said Thursday. “It’s discouraging to me, because when we build all these units we’re not going to have enough water.

“We’re in an era of limits.”

Asked whether SCOPE plans to take any further legal action, Plambeck said, “we’re considering our options.”

The overturn of the appeal was welcome news for Maria Gutzeit, president of the board of directors of the Newhall County Water District.

“I’ve always been comfortable that it would be a good project for our district,” she said. “I think we can accommodate this project.”

She said a major water draw for any project is landscaping, and noted that developers have become much more sensitive to that issue when planning a project.

City officials saw nothing but positive signs in Wednesday’s decision.

“The project itself contains many benefits for the community, not the least of which was the city gained almost 50 percent of the land for open space,” said Paul Brotzman, director of community development. “Second, it’s a significant job-creation project in the valley.

The Santa Clarita Valley is, in fact, housing rich and jobs poor.”

Brotzman said the final recourse for the environmental groups would likely be an appeal to the state Supreme Court, which he said is an expensive prospect.

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