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Sides continue to debate school dispute

Newhall Land spokeswoman says disagreement is between owner, school district for Castaic high

Posted: June 3, 2009 10:33 p.m.
Updated: June 4, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Parties on both side of a dispute over whether a high school is appropriate for the Sterling-Gateway industrial property near Valencia Commerce Center continue to debate the effectiveness of a covenant that appears to preclude the construction of a high school on the property.

The parties squabbling about the possible siting of a high school in the area - one which would serve students from Castaic - include the William S. Hart Union High School District, Sterling-Gateway, and Newhall Land and Farming.

Newhall Land maintains the covenant is in force, and that the issue involves only Sterling-Gateway, the William S. Hart Union High School District and the commerce center's business and property owners.

But an attorney for the property's owner says the covenant is invalid.

Newhall Land and Farming sold Sterling-Gateway about 40,000 square feet of a parcel in the Valencia Commerce Center, Tony Bouza, attorney for Sterling-Gateway LP said.

When the sale was completed in September 2005, Newhall Land "executed and recorded in the official records an agreement terminating the effect of the Commerce Center (covenant) on that 40,000 square foot portion of Parcel 10. Again, the Sterling-Gateway property is not part of the Valencia Commerce Center or subject to its (covenant)," according to Bouza's statement.

Only a small portion of the land is subject to the Valencia Commerce Center's covenant and its restrictions will be terminated when the county accepts the strip of land as a public road, Bouza said.

"Even if the (covenant) applies, the parcel will be used for a road, and not a school," Bouza said.

Newhall Land sees it differently.

In 2005, Sterling-Gateway agreed at Newhall Land's request to record the same covenant that is in place for the Valencia Commerce Center, Marlee Lauffer, Newhall Land spokeswoman, said.

Calling the covenants "very common," Lauffer said the documents "have a very specific purpose in making sure that the uses in a business park are appropriate and consistent."

Even so, Bouza maintains Newhall Land is able to terminate the contract without any consent from the business and property owners.

Newhall Land disputes that.

"The Sterling property was intended to be commercial industrial and per their agreement with us, they agreed to have certain restrictions on the property and other property owners are operating their business based upon those restrictions," Lauffer said.

On top of that, Sterling-Gateway initiated a traffic study to analyze the impact of a high school versus a built-out commerce center. Bouza claims that traffic studies will show that traffic in the area won't be impacted by a school in the area.

"It is our understanding that (Newhall Land and Farming) is willing to waive that restriction with respect to the proposed school if the traffic generated by the high school would not prevent (Newhall Land and Farming) from developing the remaining capacity in the Valencia Commerce Center," the statement issued by Bouza said. "It is also our understanding that the results of the traffic analysis will be released shortly, and that those results should confirm that the current and future road improvements serving the Sterling-Gateway property will be adequate to fully mitigate the traffic impacts created by a school and will not adversely impact the remaining build out of the Valencia Commerce Center."

Lauffer responded, "We're not aware of that. It's not in our agreement with the property owner."

Covenant or not, many business and property owners in the Valencia Commerce Center are opposed to the Hart district constructing a school next door to their industrial businesses.

The owners cite concerns involving traffic, student safety, property values and vandalism.

For its part, Newhall Land remains supportive of the Hart district's plans for a new high school.

"We're very supportive of a high school somewhere in the Castaic area," she said, adding that two of the district's high schools are in the Valencia developments.

The Hart district selected the site at the end of Witherspoon Parkway off of Commerce Center Parkway in October out of a possible six sites. The site, which earned the support of Castaic Area Town Council, was selected because of its easy access and nearby utilities.

Castaic residents have been waiting for their own high school for more than nine years. Castaic students currently attend Valencia and West Ranch high schools, largely considered to be overcrowded.

Local voters passed Measure SA, a $300 million bond, in November, which will go toward the construction of a high school in Castaic.

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