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Santa Clarita to Rule Tonight on Disputed Project : Development: The City Council is considering allowing a developer to build up to 2,200 residential units in exchange for making $55 million in much-needed road improvements.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After weeks of lengthy, tiring and often frustrating public hearings, the Santa Clarita City Council is scheduled to make a final decision tonight on a proposal that would let a developer build up to 2,200 houses and condominiums in exchange for $55 million in road improvements.

G. H. Palmer Associates in March won Planning Commission approval to build 1,452 condominiums on a 135-acre site in Canyon Country. But the plan met vigorous resident opposition when it reached the City Council, and the developer has proposed seven alternatives, which would cut the number of housing units to as few as 385 single-family homes.

But Dan Palmer, the developer, said he will only provide the $55 million for roads if the City Council also approves a separate 800-unit condominium project, called The Colony, near the Antelope Valley Freeway in Canyon Country. The Planning Commission rejected that project, saying the site was better suited for industry.

The seven alternatives were hastily drafted by Palmer last week after the City Council appeared lukewarm to the original plan for the Santa Catarina site. The City Council scheduled a special meeting on the issue for 6 tonight at City Hall. The council could select one of the alternatives or reject all of them.

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Some homeowners said Tuesday, however, that even the scaled-down proposals for the Santa Catarina site north of Soledad Canyon Road are unacceptable and that they will continue to push their own proposal of 177 houses.

Malia Campbell, whose home overlooks the Santa Catarina site, said negotiations between the residents and the developer are “really at a stalemate.”

The problem facing the council is how to balance the interests of homeowners living near the proposed project against the needs of a city suffering from chronic traffic congestion.

City planners have said the road improvements promised by Palmer in exchange for approval of his proposed project would create major thoroughfares, both on and off the Santa Catarina site, which the fast-growing city cannot afford to build.

Critics of the Santa Catarina project have said building condominiums on the site would lower property values and increase traffic congestion. They also oppose the alternative under which Palmer would build 385 single-family homes.

The opponents collected 1,700 signatures on petitions against the project, a sign, Campbell said, that residents do not want high-density development in Canyon Country or any other part of the city.

Campbell also said some residents fear that Palmer will rent out the condominiums as apartments. She said she has been disappointed in the appearance of some Palmer apartment projects in the city, saying they have “not attracted the type of clientele or tenants that are desirable next to $300,000 homes.” She declined to elaborate.

Palmer, meanwhile, launched his own petition drive over the weekend, paying a consulting firm to collect more than 5,800 signatures from residents endorsing the roads-for-development exchange.

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“The results, 5,800 signatures, speak for themselves,” he said. The company continued gathering signatures Tuesday.

The public wants developers, not taxpayers, to pay for roads, Palmer said, noting that Santa Clarita Valley voters in November rejected a proposed tax that would have raised $275 million for road projects.

Palmer’s Santa Catarina project received a boost Friday when an advisory committee drafting the city’s general plan recommended that between 1,038 and 2,325 units be built on the site. Even the original Santa Catarina proposal of 1,452 units is well within the committee’s zoning recommendation, he said.

Campbell and Palmer do agree on one point, however. The public debate and negotiating sessions over Santa Catarina have been exhausting.

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“This is extraordinary,” said Palmer.

“We’re all very tired of it,” Campbell said. “It’s getting to the point where it’s really wearing down the city.”


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