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VALENCIA AUTO ROW MAY ADD FOUR DEALERSHIPS.

Byline: Heather MacDonald Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA - Four new car dealerships, including Mercedes-Benz, could set up shop on Valencia's Auto Row under an expansion proposal that city officials will consider this week.

With 17 dealerships now, Auto Row is a significant contributor to the city of Santa Clarita's budget, which relies on a share of locally generated sales tax revenue.

The expansion would take the dealership zone east along Valencia Boulevard from Creekside Road, in front of the popular William S. Hart PONY League Baseball and Softball Complex.

``We have had tremendous demand from other dealerships to locate in the area, and we want to keep all of them in the same general area. It just made sense,'' said Marlee Lauffer, spokeswoman for The Newhall Land and Farming Company, which developed Auto Row.

Under the proposal, Cinema Drive would be extended across Valencia Boulevard and provide easier and safer access to the PONY complex. The youth ballfields will remain behind the new dealerships at Valencia Boulevard and Cinema Drive, according to a report prepared by the city's planning staff.

Planners have recommended approval of the expansion by the city Planning Commission. The commission will discuss the 13-acre expansion at 7 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall's Council Chambers.

``This will be a permanent improvement to our facility,'' said David Scripture, president of the league, which is its 47th season. ``We're working hand in hand with the city, the auto dealers and Newhall Land.''

Newhall Land, the area's largest developer, owns the entire 53-acre site along Valencia Boulevard and leases about 17 acres to the 2,900-player PONY League for $1 a year.

Newhall Land officials are seeking a variety of permits from the Planning Commission, including a request to use 460,000 cubic yards of dirt left over from the construction of developer Larry Rasmussen's Centre Pointe Business Park to level off the property, which is much lower than Valencia Boulevard.

Valencia Water Co., which is owned by Newhall Land, plans to abandon two wells on the vacant property, which is littered with debris and leftover pipes from nearby construction projects. The water purveyor plans to drill two new wells nearby, the report said.

Though plans approved in 1987 originally called for a pedestrian-oriented retail center on the property, Newhall Land officials decided the community would benefit more from an expansion of Santa Clarita's economic base, according to the city report.

The auto dealers generate 23 percent of Santa Clarita's sales tax receipts, which make up a majority of the city's general fund that is used to pay for projects from road resurfacing to new park construction.

With the city nearly built out and developer fees declining, Santa Clarita is looking more toward sales tax revenue to build roads, establish parks and finance other public projects.

The expansion of Auto Row will cement its status as the hub of the city's economic base, said Don Fleming, the co-owner of Valencia Acura and president of the Santa Clarita Automobile Dealers Association.

``This will help all dealers and draw many more customers to Santa Clarita,'' Fleming said.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 6, 2002
Words:515
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