Santa Clarita Council Backs Construction of 281 Houses

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Santa Clarita City Council, setting aside objections from homeowners who said a proposed development could trigger landslides or other geologic problems, has cleared the way for a developer to build 281 houses in Canyon Country.

Council members said the project by Weston Development was well-designed and that grading for the development would actually protect nearby neighborhoods from landslides. "They're making your land safer," Mayor Jo Anne Darcy told a small group of protesters at a public hearing Tuesday night.

But Karen Holder and other protesters insisted that unstable soil near the proposed site is already causing homes to settle and crack on Foxlane Drive and other streets. They said they feared that the Weston development would further undermine the foundations of their homes.

The 80-acre site, north of Whites Canyon Road and Nadal Street, is an unincorporated area that Weston has asked to be annexed into the city.

The council voted 4 to 1, with Councilwoman Jan Heidt dissenting, to approve a zoning change for the property on the assumption that it would eventually become part of the city.

Heidt said an environmental impact report should have been prepared for the project because of its size. City planners, however, concluded that such a review was unnecessary because it would not have a significant impact on the environment.

In return for city approval, the developer would donate 32 acres of land near Canyon High School for a municipal park and contribute $700,000 toward the park's construction. The park would be south of the development.

Weston officials also agreed to pay $1.5 million in road and bridge construction fees--twice the amount required by law--and to pay a local tax of about $6,000 a unit to help build schools in the rapidly growing Santa Clarita Valley.

The tax, approved by voters in 1987, was declared unconstitutional two years later by a state appellate court, but Weston agreed to pay the tax anyway, company President John A. Ashkar said.

Council members said the parkland donations, school fees, and funds for roads and bridges would benefit the entire community.

Protesters told the council that concessions from the developer did not outweigh the risks to their property. "Don't let the developers buy the city with offers of money and land," Dennis Dayton said.

The opponents also said that the potential environmental problems of the development were not adequately studied, that the project would clog streets with unwanted traffic and that Weston refused to modify its plans to alleviate the homeowners' concerns.

The council ordered Weston to post a bond to guarantee that the company would repair any homes damaged by geologic problems caused by the development.

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