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City, residents at odds over retail center

Plans for nearly 36,000 square-foot shopping area raise concerns over noise, traffic

Posted: October 21, 2009 7:25 p.m.
Updated: October 22, 2009 4:55 a.m.

This artist's rendering depicts the proposed retail center at the corner of Railroad Avenue and Oak Ridge Drive.

 
The idea of building a 35,818 square-foot retail center at the corner of Railroad Avenue and Oak Ridge Drive has some residents in the surrounding community worried about the increased noise and traffic that could come with it.

Michelle Paine was among the handful of neighbors to the proposed shopping center who voiced their concerns to the city’s planning commission Tuesday night. In addition to concerns about added noise and traffic, she said the nearby train tracks could cause problems for the center itself.

“I can’t imagine anyone would want to sit outside of that restaurant and have dinner when the trains are going by,” Paine told the commission.

City officials said the noise and traffic issues would be minimal. They added that the center fits in with Santa Clarita’s goal of creating neighborhoods that cater to pedestrians. Furthermore, officials said, the center would benefit the somewhat isolated surrounding community.

Residents currently “are nearly two miles from the nearest commercial service areas,” said Associate Planner Patrick Leclair. “This center would locate them within walking distance of a commercial center.”

The retail center has been in the works since 2005 and would include a restaurant, shopping center, two-story medical office building and 203-space parking lot, according to the city’s planning proposal report.

Another concern residents raised at the meeting was the potential for sound from the train being amplified by reverberating off the new buildings and disturbing the surrounding community. Train tracks run parallel to the proposed center a few feet away, The edge of the office building would be 50 feet from existing homes, the report said.

Leclair, who helped put together the planning report, said increased noise and pollution from the center would be minimal. Before construction can begin, the building plan will need to be approved by the Santa Clarita City Council, he said. The plan is to put the building proposal on the Nov. 24 agenda.

To help muffle the noise, trees along the property line will provide a sound barrier between homes and the center, according to the report.

Ian Pari, the city’s senior traffic engineer, analyzed the effects the shopping center would have on Oak Ridge Drive and Railroad Avenue and determined there would be virtually no added traffic as a result of building the center.

Boglarka Kiss and Robert Thies, two residents who live in the Oak Lane Condominiums across from the proposed building site, wrote a letter to the city protesting the center, echoing the concerns brought up at the meeting. They wrote that they feared the center would increase noise and traffic while decreasing their home’s property value.

Kiss and Thies could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

According to the city’s plans, the center would have a “rustic Californian” aesthetic, with stone tile roofs, exposed timbers, and 35-foot towers. The center’s design was a compromise between city planners and TMC Properties.

The report noted the original design had too many “busy” and “conflicting” styles that didn’t blend well with the look of the surrounding community.

Adjacent to the shopping center, on the northeast intersection of Railroad Avenue and Oak Ridge Drive, TMC properties has plans to build a 43-acre industrial park. The area is currently used for commercial and RV storage, according to its planning report.

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