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Local group appeals Newhall Ranch phase

Posted: June 6, 2011 10:31 a.m.
Updated: June 7, 2011 1:40 a.m.
 

Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment is appealing county planners’ recent approval of the 4,200-unit Mission Village housing development, according to the local nonprofit’s leaders.

Along with Friends of the Santa Clara River, SCOPE appealed the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission’s May 18 vote approving the Newhall Ranch development project’s second phase, saying the plan doesn’t address rising chloride levels in the Santa Clara River and will leave taxpayers to foot the bill for chloride-regulating technology.
Mission Village is one part of the planned 20,000-home Newhall Ranch development.

Now, the county board of supervisors will have to hear the local groups’ appeal before the project can move forward. No date has been set for the public hearing.

Along with the commission’s approval of the 4,200-home development is a plan to pump its sewage through the Valencia Water Treatment Plant instead of via a new, updated sanitation plant as required under the county-approved Newhall Ranch specific plan, said Lynne Plambeck, SCOPE’s president.

But that arrangement will be temporary, said Marlee Lauffer, spokeswoman for Newhall Ranch developer, Newhall Land Development Inc.

“Newhall Land will be paying all the applicable sanitation district fees ... and per the interconnecting agreement with the sanitation district, by the time there are 6,000 homes in Newhall Ranch, there will be a water treatment plant online,” Lauffer said.

Building a new wastewater plant before those homes are built would be inefficient, she said.

The Newhall Ranch specific plan, approved by the county in 2004, requires that the project’s developers build a new sewage treatment plant that meets Clean Water Act standards for lowering chloride in the Santa Clara River — requirements the Valencia plant doesn’t yet meet, Plambeck said.

Last summer, downstream Ventura County farmers claimed water released from the SCV was damaging their crops because the water carried relatively high levels of chlorides, a naturally occurring salt.

Local water users learned that removing chlorides from the SCV’s water supply to prevent regional water board fines could cost them millions of dollars.

Adding Newhall Ranch’s waste to the sanitation plant would only add to the burden local taxpayers have to shoulder to cover the cost of new, chloride-regulating upgrades, SCOPE members say.

And they argue, the SCV is already full of approved homes waiting to be built due to the economic downturn.

“We need to be good stewards of the Santa Clara River, and it’s not like we need new housing right now ... We can make a considered opinion about it,” Plambeck said.

Edel Vizcarra, Antonovich’s planning deputy, said there could be an appeal hearing as soon as August.

He noted that for a development project of this size, there are frequently appeals from different groups.

“A lot of folks want to make sure everything’s vetted before they approve anything,” Vizcarra said.

Lauffer said Newhall Land and the county have been careful to do that.

“But we’ll vet it again, before the board of supervisors,” she said.

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