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Heritage oak trees get reprieve

Panel extends public hearing on project to today

Posted: July 30, 2008 9:13 p.m.
Updated: October 1, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
Oak tree advocates have lived to fight another day after having voiced their concerns in front of the county’s Regional Planning Commission.

On Wednesday morning, a handful of people opposing plans to build a senior citizens community next door to Towsley Canyon expressed various arguments to the commission in Los Angeles.

As a result of arguments heard and having no commission representative present to answer questions from the three-member commissioning board, the commission decided to schedule another day of public debate on the planned project.

“The commission didn’t feel comfortable approving (the project) since they did not have one of the commission’s representatives attending today,” said Alejandrina Baldwin of the planning commission.

Pat Mudgno, the commission representative assigned to the Lyons Canyon district, did not attend Wednesday’s meeting.

It was to have been the last scheduled opportunity for the public to express their concerns before the project goes before the Board of Supervisors for zoning approval.

In light of Wednesday’s protests, the planning department will hold another public hearing on Aug. 20, after which time the project will likely be approved and sent to the county Board of Supervisors for review of a zoning change requested by the developer.

The Lyons Canyon Ranch project calls for more than nine acres to be re-zoned from heavy agricultural use to “unlimited commercial” use.

“Even though (the commission) didn’t think (Mudgo) had something to add, they didn’t feel comfortable approving the project,” Baldwin said. “There were three commissioners there — three out of five — and all three voted that they did not feel comfortable.”

Baldwin said the three-member commission sitting listened to a variety of arguments before making a decision to re-open debate.

“One of the concerns expressed was that Santa Clarita had sufficient housing for the elderly, that resident dwelling units for seniors was already in place,” Baldwin said after the hearing.

“Another person expressed concern over building on an area that was already prone to fires and that additional units would worsen that situation,” she said.

Other arguments were heard about the cost of “roads in the area” and about the encroachment on oak trees and their removal.

“This was also a big concern for them,” Baldwin said about the oak tree issue.

In 2006, Horton’s Western Pacific Housing, Inc., submitted a proposal to the county’s Regional Planning Commission calling for 93 single-family lots and 93 condos, all intended for seniors, on 234 acres, next door to the Ed Davis Park in Towsley Canyon, on The Old Road.

The proposal seeks permission to rip out 162 smaller oak trees, transplant the 13 big oaks and gain permission from the county to encroach on another 52 oaks, six of which are also classified as heritage oaks.

News of the additional public meeting was well-received.

“It makes me feel very good and cautiously optimistic,” Annette E. Stiefbold of La Glorita Circle, told The Signal on Wednesday.

Stiefbold is one of two women, describing themselves as senior citizens of Santa Clarita, who wrote to The Signal expressing their opposition to plans to build a senior citizens community next to Towsley Canyon.
She described herself as “a senior citizen and therefore hypothetically eligible to live in the planned development.”

Stiefbold pointed out, however, that: “maintaining Ed Davis Park in Towsley Canyon as a physical and emotional refuge from urban life is far more important to me and the others who enjoy the park. I urge the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors to act in favor of quality of life in Santa Clarita and decline to approve this project.”

Monika Curry wrote an e-mail to commissioners in advance of Wednesday’s meeting, a copy of which she sent to The Signal.

“The proposed senior housing development in Stevenson Ranch would put senior citizen homes right into a chronic and very dangerous fire zone, ravaged by infernos three times in just the past 10 years,” Curry said in her e-mail. “It is neither safe, nor convenient for seniors to live in that development.

“Please reject these plans and demonstrate your concern and care for the senior citizens of this valley, not the utter contempt for their safety and well-being inherent in this plan.”

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