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Environmental impact report meets little opposition except road access

Posted: August 16, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 16, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Castaic resident Jean Cloyd speaks about dual access for the proposed Castaic high school at the William S. Hart Union High School District Board of Education meeting held at district headquarters in Santa Clarita on Wednesday.

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A public meeting seeking comments on the proposed Castaic high school’s environmental impact report drew about 20 residents Wednesday night, and they registered more concern about access than they did opposition to the long-awaited project.

“I think that we’ve really demonstrated that we’ve been trying to work with the community,” said board President Gloria Mercado-Fortine, “and that the community wants a high school.”

Wednesday’s public forum was a chance for administrators to hear input on the first draft of an environmental impact report for the selected site for the Castaic high school in the William S. Hart Union High School District.

The community has waited more than a decade for a school, a fact mentioned by a one of the eight commenters, who also reiterated access concerns.

“Please put in two access roads,” said Lance Vaughn, a Castaic resident who said he’s been waiting for the school since his son, who’s now in 10th grade at West Ranch High School, was in first grade.

“If you’re a resident of Castaic, you know the traffic nightmares that can be caused there, and two-thirds of the students will be coming from the south,” he said.

Many residents expressed concern because the impact report has a scenario that, initially, calls for one access route to the school, which would be from the north. None of the traffic options offered in the EIR calls for a second access route before 1,600 students are enrolled at the school.

The enrollment minimum was written into the EIR only to provide the district with flexibility, according to Tom Cole, chief operations officer for the Hart district.

“We have no intention of not building both routes,” Cole said, explaining that the district was still evaluating the best possible approach to the school from the south.

To that end, Castaic residents gave conflicting accounts: Tricia Howell, a longtime Castaic resident and self-described “cowgirl,” said the best way to lessen the disruption of rural lifestyle would be to open a route from Romero Canyon.

However, Glenn Ennis, a  Romero Canyon resident, said residents want to keep their portion of Romero Canyon Road, which is privately maintained, the way it is.

Howell also noted that she would like to see the Future Farmers of America program included in a Castaic high school curriculum, a notion that was seconded by board member Paul Strickland.

In the meantime, 17 local agencies, 15 state agencies and eight watchdog organizations continue to review the document.

The EIR is in a 45-day comment period that ends Sept. 6. The Planning Center will then present an amended version to the board, which will include written responses to any documented community commentary, according to Dwayne Mears, who supervised The Planning Center’s EIR.

Hart district officials should see a final EIR circulated Sept. 21, Mears said. The document has cost the district $449,718.50 in Measure SA funds.

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