WEST-SIDE LEADERS SPLIT ON NEXT MOVE.
SANTA CLARITA -- As community leaders on the Santa Clarita Valley's west side explore how their area should be governed, they have started to move in opposite directions.
Residents in Sunset Pointe and the collective Castaic neighborhoods of Hasley Hills, North Bluff and Live Oak are moving toward annexing to the city of Santa Clarita.
Members of the Castaic Town Council and the West Ranch Town Council -- the latter of which serves Stevenson Ranch, Sunset Pointe and Valencia Westridge -- have criticized those residents for their annexation move, saying the entire west side of the Santa Clarita Valley should work together as it explores its options. Among those options is forming a new city, they say.
Whether west-side residents choose to create a city or annex to Santa Clarita, community leaders say either process would take many months. A few of those involved already have been talking to the Local Agency Formation Commission, the independent county-funded agency that oversees municipal boundary changes under state law.
"They seem to be methodical in their approach," said Sandor Winger, executive officer of LAFCO. "Obviously, they have a deep concern of their community, which is good, and no one has even bordered on being irrational. ... They seem to have their act together."
The West Ranch Town Council spearheaded an effort to study the future governance of the west side, obtaining $25,000 in county funding from Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.
The council named seven individuals to a committee that will report to residents on a study looking at whether the west side can afford to create its own city, or if it should annex to Santa Clarita or remain unincorporated county territory.
While critics say the initiative's sole aim is to form a new city, West Ranch Town Council President Dave Bossert said several of those named to the exploratory committee favor annexation to Santa Clarita.
The committee eventually will have 20 to 25 members, Bossert said.
While Bossert maintains annexation is possible for the west side, he opposes the efforts of individual neighborhoods to be annexed on their own.
"There's a lot to be said about the old saying, 'United we stand, divided we fall,'" he said.
Work on the initial feasibility study, an examination of governance options for the west side, should start within weeks, and it will take three to five months to finish, Bossert said.
Real estate agent Pam Ingram, a Sunset Pointe resident, said her community will consider the results of the study even if it follows the likely course of pursuing annexation to Santa Clarita.
About 2,000 to 2,500 residents live in Sunset Pointe, which was built in 1987 and is older than many other parts of the west side. The neighborhood is bordered by Sagecrest Circle to the south and the intersection of Pico Canyon Road and The Old Road to the north.
"I think that there are some in (the) West Ranch Town Council that would like to incorporate and become their own city," Ingram said. "It's not an interest for us in Sunset Pointe."
She cited concerns about a newly formed city competing for resources with Santa Clarita, and she mentioned Lancaster and Palmdale as an example of how problems can develop when neighboring cities compete.
Meanwhile, Brian Roney, spokesman for the Castaic Annexation Support Team, said he hopes the 1,100 households in Hasley Hills, North Bluff and Live Oak could be annexed along with the nearby Valencia Commerce Center.
Santa Clarita city officials said dozens of business owners in the Commerce Center have expressed an interest in annexing to the city.
If any part of Sunset Pointe, Hasley Hills, North Bluff, Live Oak or the Commerce Center annexes, it would be the first time the city extended its boundaries west of Interstate5, with the exception of a strip of relatively undeveloped land in Newhall.
Opponents of annexation have pointed to the freeway as a defining border that shouldn't change, but the city argues otherwise.
"The 5 is not a border; there are freeways that cut through cities all through the state of California," said Kai Luoma, senior planner with the city.