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Nearly 500 homes approved

• ‘Park Place' will be built in Tick Canyon

Posted: June 6, 2008 1:35 a.m.
Updated: August 7, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
A 492-unit Canyon Country housing development was approved by county supervisors Wednesday, clearing the way for grading of more than 500 acres of land.

Dubbed "Park Place," the development would be located in Tick Canyon at the very eastern edge of Canyon Country at the end of Shadow Pines Boulevard.

The project was delayed at least a year by a dispute over water availability numbers which threatened to stall the development.

"Great, that's really good news," said Canyon Country real estate agent Gail Kopp. "They are going to add to this community and beautify Canyon Country."

She spoke out in favor of the planned community before Wednesday's supervisors' vote as well as earlier in the year, when water availability was an issue for the project.

"Canyon Country is always seen as being on the wrong side of the tracks," Kopp said.

Said area resident Dave Carter, "The people that come up here dump their trash. You would be amazed at what junk you find here." Carter owns and operates Dave Carter Concrete, also spoke in favor the Park Place development.

The Synergy Land Development Company received permission Wednesday to remove four oak trees from the housing site and permission to remove an additional 68 other "scrub oaks" to make way for 16 acres of park land.

"We're putting in 16 acres of level new park land which contains a regular soccer field, a baseball diamond and court play area, all with universal access for children who are handicapped," Synergy President Rick Doremus said.

Four trees will be planted for each of the four grown oak trees, and each of the 68 scrub oaks taller than knee high, Doremus said. With 2 1/2 miles of bike paths and 271 acres of designated "permanent open space," Park Place plans call for the construction of an up-scale Valencia-style community with the accent on open space.

"We wanted the park to be very accessible and recreational for people," Doremus explained. "We met with the city and the county. And, even though the whole project is in the county, we had the support of the city."

At a February hearing, water dominated any discussion of a planned community.

A water tower figures prominently into the Park Place plans, with the Newhall County Water District providing assurance that the developer will have the supply of water it needs for new residents.

The Park Place project was one of three developments stalled last year by a lawsuit launched by water activists who had alleged that water supply numbers used by the Castaic Lake Water Agency were inflated and did not accurately reflect the actual water on hand.

A recent court ruling, however, determined in favor of the agency that had defended its assessment of available water.

Castaic Lake Water Agency General Manager Dan Masnada said all local water supplies had to be reassessed in light of the Wanger Ruling.

In 2007, U.S. District Court Judge Oliver Wanger issued a decision in federal court that limited pumping operations in the San Joaquin Delta because some species of animals were being harmed, including the Delta smelt.

"We updated our plan, however, and presented that to the city and the county," Masnada told The Signal Wednesday. "And despite the Wanger ruling, we still have sufficient water for our plans."

Last week, water agencies and developers ran into another legislative roadblock when an amendment to the law governing how water suppliers count their water supplies came up in Sacramento.

On Thursday, developers, like Synergy, wanting to build communities of around 500 homes won a small victory when the proposed law was struck down. It had promised to slow development through tougher conditions set on groundwater assessment.

Kopp, the Realtor, got a chance to see the water debate up close and personal in February when she spoke in support of Park Place.

She recalls the fight put up by environmentalists opposed to the Park Place project and recalls water agency officials arguing that there was indeed enough water for the Park Place project.

"The environmental people were saying, ‘Oh, there's not enough water,' but then the water agency testified that there was enough water. They're the professionals, not these people who file these frivolous lawsuits.

"These environmentalists were all up in arms saying ‘keep Tick Canyon pristine.' Have you seen Tick Canyon? It's a dump.

"Park Place is going to clean that up and make it pristine," Kopp said. "Right now, they dump things like tires in there, which is a huge environmental problem.

"The main issue (in February) was the water," Kopp said. "I just couldn't understand what the problem was if appropriate water supplies were assessed by professionals."

Synergy, operating as Synergy Brookfield LLC in partnership with Brookfield, is already building a second community in Santa Clarita on 246 acres bounded by Bouquet Canyon Road, Plum Canyon Road and Soledad Canyon Road.

The development is called Keystone. Like Park Place, it includes a significant amount of open space - 70 acres of 246 acres is earmarked for parks, trails and manufactured slopes.

The Keystone project received its water quality certification from the California Regional Water Quality Control Board in October 2006.

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