Council hears feedback on Gate-King project
Residents share concerns about plans for Needham Ranch business park.
By Stacey Klein
Signal Staff Writer
Thursday, May 29, 2003
he Santa Clarita City Council heard more than two hours of public testimony Tuesday about the latest plans for the Needham Ranch industrial park before setting a vote on the project for June 24.
Feelings for the proposed industrial park were mixed among the 15 or so residents who addressed the council. While some supported developer Mark Gates for his work to negotiate terms of the development agreement, others remained opposed to the project's unavoidable environmental impacts.
Santa Clarita resident Brandi Wright said she did not like to see longtime residents being compromised by new developments sprouting up in their backyards.
"I don't want to see this beautiful city I grew up in and love go to waste," she said.
Castaic resident Phil Hof compared Needham Ranch to the proposed Las Lomas development that would be located down the road from the industrial park.
The City Council has been staunchly opposed to the 5,800-home Las Lomas residential development, citing harsh environmental, resource and traffic impacts to the Santa Clarita Valley. Las Lomas' developer has applied to Local Agency Formation Commission for annexation into the city of Los Angeles.
"I know you want to believe the two are so different they have nothing to do with each other," Hof said. "LAFCO will pay attention to your action in (considering) the Las Lomas decision. There is more at stake than just this project."
Community activist Connie Worden-Roberts said she has long advocated the project for its contribution to evening the city's jobs-housing balance. The project promises to bring 7,800 new jobs to Santa Clarita, and no houses, Worden-Roberts noted.
"It is the antithesis of the Las Lomas project," she said.
Resident and environmental activist Teresa Savaikie said she had to give the developer credit for trying hard to make an effort, but was still concerned over clearing away hillsides and harming animals throughout a wildlife corridor.
"This project will block the wildlife corridor," she said, noting that late-night delivery trucks could lead to "animals being splattered everywhere."
In addition to protecting local wildlife, residents and council members showed concern to protect some local landmarks.
Leon Worden, president of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, said the developer had agreed to several issues with respect to the history of the area, particularly the preservation of the 19th-century Pioneer Oil Refinery, which Worden called "the single most important historical asset within the confines of this city."
As the project is developed, the now-isolated and deteriorating refinery would sit at a major intersection of the industrial park, and the developer agreed to contribute funding to the site's restoration, Worden said.
But the planned money for the refinery restoration and for other public improvements, including a new community center and street improvements in downtown Newhall, was combined into a total $2.4 million developer contribution to be allocated by the City Council at its discretion. The council has not yet decided how it will spend the money.
John Gonzalez, a resident of Saugus for more than 40 years, said he was alarmed at the rate hills were getting leveled.
"There's no intelligence behind it. (Developers) are just cashing in on the land," he said. "I've been here for 40 years and I feel like moving."
Resident Sandra Cattell said she had mixed emotions on most aspects of the project, specifically a proposed bike trail.
"I like the bike trail, but it's dangerous to get to," she said. "San Fernando Road is hell to ride on a bicycle."
City Council members shared many of the residents' concerns and asked staff to include a number of additional conditions in the final agreement:
"When this project first came forward, I had some very big reservations," said Councilwoman Marsha McLean.
- There will be no bright lighting on sides of buildings facing the wildlife corridor, so as not to frighten or harm animals.
- Newhall Creek is to remain in its natural condition.
- The industrial park's buildings will be painted in a unified color scheme.
- Tenants will be made aware of the animals nearby.
- An account will be established for funds the developer contributes to downtown Newhall.
- Any cultural artifacts found on the site will be protected.
- Oak trees planted on the site will be monitored for five to seven years, and the developer will consult with local oak preservation groups to manage their health.
- The site will be landscaped using plants native to the region.
- Types of fencing allowed on the site will be limited chain link fences will be barred to those that are aesthetically pleasing and allow for wildlife movement. Block walls will be required to have an ivy cover to discourage graffiti.
Councilman Frank Ferry commended Gates for three years of work getting the project to pass.
"From every part from day one, (Gates) has stepped up and gave, gave, gave," Ferry said.
Gates, whose family has owned the Needham Ranch property for more than 45 years, said he felt confident that the project had finally reached the point of agreement and satisfaction with the city.
"This will be an outstanding financial park, and something I can be proud of and you can be proud of," Gates told the council members.
About two-thirds of the project site will remain open space, Gates said, with plenty of "green space" throughout.
"This is not a cookie-cutter business park," he said.
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