Environmentalists opposed to Newhall Ranch, along with the developer expected to start building it, presented arguments Wednesday for and against the 21,000-home development west of Interstate 5 along Highway 126.

Officials representing the Center for Biological Diversity defended the center’s lawsuit filed in 2012 against the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. The suit claims the development would destroy natural habitat for native plants and animals along the banks of the Santa Clara River.

The center filed a lawsuit against Fish & Wildlife for granting Newhall Land Development Inc. a permit to develop an area near the river.

In November 2012, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ann Jones ruled there were flaws in the Environmental Impact Report prepared for the development by Newhall Land in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act.

Newhall Land appealed the decision and, on Wednesday, that appeal was heard by three Los Angeles appellate court judges.

“One of the things I mentioned, which I thought was a key contentious issue, was how this project — which is pretty enormous — contributes to greenhouse gas emissions,” John Buse, legal director for the Center for Biological Diversity, told The Signal after the hearing.

“The heating and cooling of all those homes, plus all the cars driving back and forth from each of those homes — all these things would be producing carbon emissions,” he said.

Nehwall Land officials argued that the Environmental Impact Report they prepared was sound and sensitive to the environment.

“It was an hour of arguments.” Newhall Land spokeswoman Marlee Lauffer told The Signal following the hearing.

“We have spent a decade working with the Department (of Fish & Wildlife) and various state and federal agencies,” she said. “There is significant land dedication for environmental resource stewardship, a large habitat for indigenous species, specifically for preservation of the (protected San Fernando Valley) spineflower, and preservation of natural open space areas.”

A lawyer representing Fish & Wildlife named in the lawsuit spoke at the hearing, as did a lawyer representing an environmental group called Wishtoyo who spoke about the impact the development would have on cultural heritage of the Chumash people, Buse said.

The panel of judges for the Court of Appeal is expected to make its decision in the next 90 days.

In February 2012, Los Angeles County supervisors approved the first phase of Newhall Ranch, called Landmark Village.

The project calls for developing 422 lots on about 295 acres. The lots would mean 270 single-family homes, 744 condominiums and 430 apartments, along with 16 commercial lots.

The plan for Landmark Village also calls for 119 lots for open space, plus at least one fire station, park and school.

Newhall Ranch is a master-planned community from the same firm that planned and developed Valencia.

After its projected 25- to 30-year construction period, it would include more than 20,000 residences west of Interstate 5.

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