Newhall Ranch 2007 Update
By Barbara Wampole
After ten years of planning, hearings and litigation, the first tract map for Newhall Ranch, Landmark Village, has been put forward for review and approval by the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission. A Draft Environmental Impact Report has been released, comments accepted, and two hearings have been held. The Commission did not approve the project at the end of the second hearing. There is supposed to be another hearing (still unscheduled) at which the commissioners are expected to make a decision. After that, the project will go to the Board of Supervisors for final approval.
Landmark Village is planned to include 1444 residential units and 1 million square feet of commercial development. Much of it is sited in the floodplain of the Santa Clara River. Five million cubic yards of earth moving will be needed to elevate the project area and level the site.
The Army Corps of Engineers and the California Department of Fish and Game must issue permits to address many flood control and resource issues before the project can proceed. However, no permits from Federal or California agencies have been issued at this time. A lengthy review process is currently underway that will result in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report that should be available for public review sometime later in 2007.
Many environmental organizations have provided comments on impacts that need to be analyzed. The Audubon Society, in particular, wrote very strong comments concerning lack of adequate bird surveys on the project site. Friends continue to have serious concerns about impacts to the river and to riparian habitat. We hope and expect that the EIS/EIR process will result in changes to the project that will better protect the river and associated wetlands.
Any public perception that the Newhall Ranch project had long ago been approved is absolutely not the case. Only the Specific Plan, which basically established zoning, has been approved. All five Newhall Ranch "villages" will require separate environmental review and approval. In addition to biological impacts, traffic circulation and air quality remain as very large issues in the Santa Clarita area and look to become ever more so over time as the area builds up and other projects are approved along the I-5 corridor.
Bottom line - the project is still very much open to modification and we strongly encourage the public to remain alert and engaged. Please visit our website (www.fscr.org) to keep abreast of news and how you can help.