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Paul Brotzman: Preserving the good life in Santa Clarita

SCV Voices

Posted: June 26, 2010 2:51 p.m.
Updated: June 27, 2010 4:30 a.m.
 

One of the thorniest actions a municipality can embark upon center around development and the development process. It was, in fact, development — or overdevelopment, as the case may be — and a desire to preserve what is special about our community that helped to bring about the city of Santa Clarita.

It is our continued mission to preserve in our city the good life here that drives our work, our communications and our actions at City Hall. You may be surprised to learn that since cityhood in 1987, less than 350 housing units per year on average have been built. Residential growth and development in our community is mainly derived from county-approved housing units. (More on that to come in a future column.)

It is understandable that new development can sometimes be stressful and messy. Often its value, need and appearance are subjective and it is human nature to be leery and uncomfortable with change. As this country evolved from an agrarian society to an industrial one, to post-World War II and the digital age, the need to responsibly respond to growth while protecting the environment, create needed infrastructure and ensure compatibility with existing, adjacent communities is a careful balancing act at best.

From the early days of cityhood, Santa Clarita has vowed to do things differently, and over the years this commitment has stood the test of time. Some of the things Santa Clarita does differently with regard to its development process include expanding the legally required noticing area so more people are notified of impending projects; requiring developers to fund environmental impact reports that are carried out by the city, not the developer; and holding public hearings on projects locally and during convenient after-work hours so more people can attend and participate. Another is requesting that developers meet with the communities surrounding their proposed project before ever submitting plans for consideration by the city’s Planning Commission and City Council. 

Everybody has rights
The city of Santa Clarita recognizes everybody has legal rights when it comes to the development process — the public, the property owners and the developers. It would be illegal for the city to deny a property owner the right to submit an application for a development proposal, and doing so would open our city up to litigation.

Property rights are considered one of our most coveted rights - legally protected - and are something widely considered to be part of the American dream. 

Application types
It might be helpful to understand the various types of development proposals. Development applications generally fall into one of three categories: By right, by conditional-use permit and by general plan amendment/zone change. More information about each of these, their requirements and process, including public input procedures, is available on the city’s website at www.santa-clarita.com.

Meet with the public
Beyond the public participation and hearings that are required by law for development proposals, it is the city’s policy and practice to strongly urge developers and property owners to meet with the surrounding community and keep them engaged and involved as the developer proceeds with their development proposals.

We do this so the community has an opportunity to get involved from the beginning, as well as to provide the developer with a sense of how the proposed project will be received by the adjacent neighborhoods. This is not meant to suggest everybody will like what they hear and that there won’t be any frustrations once a project is proposed and the development process begins. But it does illustrate the effort taken to involve the communities potentially affected by the proposed project.

Finding balance
Upholding the laws of our land, providing our community with a role in the development process, making sure our residents and business community have the quality projects they need and want and most importantly, preserving what is special about Santa Clarita, are all part of the quest for balance we strive for at the city.  We look forward to your informed involvement.

Paul Brotzman is Santa Clarita’s director of community development. He can be reached at pbrotzman@santa-clarita.com. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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