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New group plans to fight Smiser Ranch development

Posted: April 24, 2008 1:49 a.m.
Updated: June 25, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
Nearly 30 Newhall residents living near the old Smiser Ranch mule farm told Santa Clarita City Council members this week that the plans to build two 12-story buildings, retail shops and 800 residential units are too "New York City" for their quiet community.

"The proposal is downright scary," said Glenda Bona, a leader of the recently-formed Calgrove Corridor Coalition. "We're not going to let this slide by."

Monteverde Companies submitted plans in November to build The Avenue at Santa Clarita, a residential and commercial center on 37 acres bordered by Interstate 5, Wiley Canyon Road and Calgrove Boulevard.

After hearing residents' concerns that include traffic and environmental effects, Mayor Bob Kellar asked the city manager at Tuesday's council meeting to send a tape of the meeting to the developer, along with a letter citing the residents' concerns.

Bona said the coalition is demanding to be part of the planning process and wants to make sure the project benefits the community. Many of the residents suggested building a park on the property instead.

"You can call us NIMBYs, but it's far more than that," she said. "It may be our backyard, but city of Santa Clarita, it's your front yard."

Sterling King of the citizens group We the People SCV said the development will look "like a slice of New York City."

"You'll get to know us very well over the next two years," he said. "We'll be more stubborn than any mule on that farm."

Former Councilman TimBen Boydston said he believes companies propose large developments that will likely be rejected by the community and then scale down the project to appear they are compromising with local residents.

"This is an old game," Boydston said. "(They say) ‘You're being selfish because we've already cut your project in half.'"

Project consultant Jeff Lambert said Wednesday, "I won't say their (allegations) are so off-based. It always changes. That's just the way the development process works."

He said he has met with residents in small groups over the past two years and has heard the same concerns. He acknowledged the developer has not yet made any changes to reflect those concerns.

"Unfortunately we didn't get back to them in a timely manner," he said.

The residents on Tuesday "lit a fire under us to really start doing that work," he said. "It articulated the intensity of community's concerns." He said the developer could modify the project, but the idea of turning the property into a park "is not likely to get much attention from us."

As for the potential traffic problems, he said, "We don't have the full picture yet" because there has not yet been a comprehensive traffic analysis.

The consultants for the environmental impact report have not yet been chosen, but scoping meeting could begin within the next three to four months, said City Manager Ken Pulskamp.

"City staff shares the opinions of the public," he said Tuesday. "At the staff level, we are very concerned with the project as it is presented."

Kellar also directed the city's traffic department to examine the community's existing traffic problems.

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