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Project Linked to Road Deal Given Conditional Approval

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Santa Clarita City Council has tentatively approved an 800-unit condominium project that forms part of a controversial agreement that would grant development concessions to a builder in exchange for millions of dollars in road improvements.

At a 3 1/2-hour hearing Tuesday night, the council unanimously approved construction of a project by G.H. Palmer Associates called The Colony, located on 46.2 acres next to the Antelope Valley Freeway in Canyon Country.

But the City Council made its approval conditional, saying it wanted city planners to investigate The Colony’s potential economic effect on Santa Clarita and the potential hazards of railroad tracks near the site.

Dan Palmer, the developer, also hopes to build a 1,452-unit condominium project, known as Santa Catarina, in the city’s Skyblue Mesa neighborhood. In return he has offered to pay for up to $55 million in road improvements inside and outside the project.

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Palmer said he would only consider paying for the roads--which city planners said Santa Clarita cannot afford to build on its own--if the city approved The Colony.

“The Colony, quite frankly, is a trade-off,” said Councilman Carl Boyer III. “I think it’s kind of like getting in bed with the devil.”

The city Planning Commission had voted 4 to 0 in March to oppose construction of The Colony, saying the chosen site would be more appropriately used for industry.

Santa Catarina and The Colony also are part of a proposed agreement under which Palmer would be guaranteed the right to build the projects for 10 years, protecting them from zone changes or revisions to the city General Plan.

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The city and Palmer are still working out details of the Santa Catarina project, and it appeared that a resolution is still several weeks away. Palmer has proposed 1,452 units in Santa Catarina, but the City Council said two weeks ago that it would not support more than 800 units.

The divisive issue has pitted neighborhood against neighborhood and prompted intense lobbying and lengthy public hearings.

“This project has done more to damage our community than anything I could possibly imagine,” Linda Calvert, who opposes the Palmer project, told the council.

Among the latest residents to enter the debate are members of Temple Beth Shalom, who endorsed Palmer’s plans. Upon questioning from the City Council, Hal Dash, a temple member, said the congregation had offered its support to Palmer in exchange for a promise by the developer to provide free land for a new temple in Newhall.

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