Newhall Ranch Inches Closer To Goal

Los Angeles County officials released a report detailing the effects that the first phase of the massive Newhall Ranch development would have on the environment, which has drawn concern from at least one prominent local activist.

The draft environmental impact report for the Landmark Village community is available to review at three local libraries.

Landmark Village is the first phase of the 20,000-home Newhall Ranch project planned by Newhall Land and Farming Co.

The mixed-use project would include more than 1,000 homes in mostly multifamily buildings.

However, the report was released before officials finalized a plan for how the development would fit around the Santa Clara River.

Lynne Plambeck, president of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment, said she was dismayed the project is moving forward before officials have approved a comprehensive plan for the river.

She said it’s too soon to move forward with Landmark because of the housing crunch, and the fact that Newhall Land has yet to receive a river permit from the U.S Army Corps of Engineers.

“We don’t see really the necessity to rush to put the cart before the horse before they get this big permit from the Army Corps,” Plambeck said.

Newhall Land spokeswoman Marlee Lauffer said the river permit would supersede any language in the specific Landmark Village plans.

Lauffer added she doesn’t expect Newhall Land would grade the property for another two or three years, after the river permit is approved.

The community would include an elementary school, a fire station, trails and a park.

A 100- to 200-foot buffer would separate the river from the community, and a 5-mile recreational river trail will snake through the 12,000-acre project, according to Newhall Land documents.

The new version of the draft is largely the same as its original, which was vetted November 2006 to January 2008.

One change is the addition of a chapter on the project’s effect on global climate change. The construction alone will produce almost 44,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s as much as about 2,300 average Americans emit in a year.

Once completed, Landmark Village’s residents will create an estimated annual emission of about 20,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. That’s equal to 1 percent of the annual emissions of a coal-fired power plant, based on Environmental Protection Agency data.

But the report notes that philosophical questions arise as to whether new emissions are created by economic and population growth, or if projects such as Newhall Ranch simply accommodate such growth.

The climate-change section was added to make sure the project will not impede state goals for greenhouse gas-emission reductions, based on the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act. The report found that it won’t: The project’s emissions are 31-percent below a “no action taken” scenario.

The act requires a reduction of 29 percent or more from that scenario.

In June 2008, the project hit a snag when Newhall Land and Farming’s parent company, LandSource Communities Development, filed bankruptcy.

Lauffer said the company is now owned mostly by investment bankers, and it has funding to continue the permitting process for Landmark Village.

The public comment period lasts through March 17.

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