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Critics doubt Newhall Ranch developer

Citizens question whether Newhall Land is stable enough to execute project

Posted: June 11, 2009 10:07 p.m.
Updated: June 12, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Concerned citizens representing environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Friends of the Santa Clara River hold signs at the entrance of the multipurpose room at Ranch Pico Middle School where a public hearing of a new Newhall Ranch development is about to begin on Thursday evening.

 

Newhall Land and Farming’s finances and the environmental impacts of a proposed project fueled a protest at a public hearing Thursday.

“I hope (Newhall Land and Farming) bonds this project to assure the mitigations happen,” said Carole Lutness during the public comment period.

Lutness’ comments came in reaction to news that a committee of unsecured creditors submitted a request to have the U.S. Bankruptcy Court convert LandSource’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan to a Chapter 7 filing at a July 13 hearing in Delaware. LandSource owns Newhall Land and Farming.  

The California Department of Fish and Game along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held a public hearing to take testimony from Santa Clarita residents on the proposed Newhall Ranch project, said Kirsten Macintyre, Fish and Game spokeswoman.

Fish and Game and the Army Corps will have to give final approval on the proposed project before construction can begin, she said.

If the Newhall Ranch project is approved, Newhall Land and Farming would build 21,000 homes southwest of the Interstate 5-Highway 126 interchange.

After a PowerPoint presentation on the environmental study, residents aired their concerns about the time allotted to digest the 17,000 report.  

Cam Noltemeyer, of Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment, harped on the financial pitfalls in allowing Newhall Land and Farming to move forward with the development.

“How will the Army Corps ensure the mitigation will happen when the company is bankrupt?” she asked.

Noltemeyer was also concerned about the environmental impacts on the project including the impacts on the water supply.

“We are wondering how the water supply can be accounted for when everybody in the state is being asked to cut back,” said Noltemeyer. Newhall Land and Farming, which also owns Valencia Water Company, plans to recycle much of the water used in the Newhall Ranch Project.

However, Noltemeyer said current resident interest should supersede the water needs of any proposed project.  

“Why is water being used to supply Newhall Ranch instead of the rest of the Santa Clarita Valley?” Noltemeyer asked.

Not all the comments at the public hearing were in opposition.

Larry Mankin, president of the SCV Chamber of Commerce, said the project represents smart planning on the part of Newhall Land.

“Our organization (SCV Chamber of Commerce) has been in support of Newhall Ranch for several years,” he said. “The more than 20,000 permanent jobs and 40,000 with the eventual buildout of Valencia is testimony to good planning.”

The public hearing is not the last chance for residents to comment on the project. The public comment period ends June 26, barring any extension by Fish and Game or the Army Corps.

The final environment approval for the project won’t be complete until early 2010, said Marlee Lauffer, Newhall Land and Farming spokeswoman.

 

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