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Developers Ask County to Ease Proposed Limits on Santa Clarita Growth

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dozens of developers urged the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Thursday to relax the restrictions of a proposed county plan that would dramatically reduce growth in the Santa Clarita Valley during the next 20 years.

Under the proposed General Plan, recently approved by the Regional Planning Commission, developers who now hope to build 38,000 housing units would be limited to 12,500 units. The proposal is an attempt to hold the valley’s population, now estimated at 147,000, to 270,000 by 2010. The crackdown on rapid growth was triggered by concern that the fast-growing area was far outstripping its ability to provide additional schools, roads, police and fire stations and water.

At the end of the hearing, the supervisors said they would decide on Oct. 18 whether to modify the proposed General Plan. The board members offered no clues as to how they would vote.

But Dave Vannatta, planning deputy for Supervisor Mike Antonovich, said he thought the board would probably do only “fine-tuning” of the plan.

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“I don’t think you’ll see wholesale changes,” he said.

Property owners who testified Thursday said they hoped their projects would be exempt from the proposed curtailments. And many offered to pay for improvements such as parks, school sites, roads and water treatment plants to increase their chances of success.

At least two developers even brought along community supporters to show that their housing projects were too worthwhile to jeopardize. And three Santa Clarita Valley school superintendents enthusiastically testified on behalf of two major housing projects. It was an unusual sight because the superintendents usually have fought vigorously against proposed housing projects for fear that the newcomers’ children would overwhelm the schools. In some cases, the school districts have sued the developers and county to stop projects.

“Battles between the schools and developers in the Santa Clarita Valley have a long history,” said Scott Brown, superintendent of the Castaic Union School District. But he told the board he supported a major Castaic development after the builder promised to donate two elementary school sites.

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Under the proposed General Plan, the developer of the Northlake subdivision would be permitted to build 1,800 homes in Castaic instead of 3,000. To make the larger subdivision acceptable to residents and the board, the developer has promised to donate sites for a library, fire station and two parks. The builder also threw a barbecue for 900 Castaic residents.

Yet members of the Santa Clarita City Council, who want to limit unchecked growth in the unincorporated portion of the valley, urged the board not to give in to the developers’ desires.

“We ask the County Board of Supervisors to resist the pressure that you will be getting at this hearing and not increase the future housing unit and population count further,” said Carl Boyer III, Santa Clarita’s mayor pro tem.


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