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City eyes 140 acres for open space

Posted: January 6, 2009 9:48 p.m.
Updated: January 7, 2009 4:59 a.m.

The City Council is eyeing the purchase of 140 acres of open space in Placerita Canyon, part of its ongoing effort to complete a so-called green belt around the city. Approximately 10 acres of the land are contaminated.

 
City officials are waiting for a contamination report on a 140-acre site before they can close escrow on the $2.5 million Placerita Canyon property earmarked for open space that will expand the city's greenbelt.

Adding to the city's greenbelt protects species and their natural habitats and creates recreational opportunities, said Barbara Stoll, city acquisition specialist.

"Open space is bigger than keeping out development," she said. "It helps to protect and improve our air and water quality."

The issue is a priority for the City Council.

"It probably would be a nice piece to access a trail head, go hiking or just enjoy the land," Councilwoman Laurene Weste said.

The city hopes to complete the purchase in the early part of 2009, Stoll said.

"It's a great piece of property," Stoll said.

The 140 acres join the roughly 3,400 acres of open space already under the city's control.

Moorpark-based Special Devices Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2008, is selling the site east of the Placerita Canyon Natural Area.

Fewer than 10 acres of the location, the former Special Devices Inc. site, contain low levels of chemical contamination, the result of operations involving the manufacturing of aerospace applications and ignition devices for use in automobile air bags, according to a report by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Operations ran from the late 1950s into 1999 and all buildings were removed from the rugged terrain.

A department investigation found that "risks to persons outdoors, such as in a park or natural open-space setting, are acceptable."

The department warns of possible risks to people indoors unless proper construction techniques are used.

Ground water is not a risk to human health or the environment.

The 10 acres now become the focus of the city's draft Corrective Measures Study that details the possible remedies to clean up the site. The study is the city's responsibility, said Jeanne Garcia, department spokeswoman.

The department stays involved until the study is submitted and the public is given an opportunity to comment.

"We don't go away until it's completed," Garcia said.

City officials are negotiating with other property owners to continue purchasing open space in different parts of the Santa Clarita Valley, Stoll said.

The low contamination shouldn't be a concern because this type dissipates over time and the property will remain as open space, Weste said.

"We wouldn't be developing anything," Weste said, noting that the department would not sign off on the investigation until the site is safe for public use.

The city will most likely install a new gate and a kiosk on the site, Stoll said.

Ultimately, Weste considers the purchase a gift to the community and future residents.

"I think it's exciting that we have this piece in escrow," she said.

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