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ACTIVISTS SAY OAKS DOOMED SUIT FILED OVER CITY'S ACTIONS.

Byline: Nicholas Grudin Staff Writer

NEWHALL - An environmental group on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the city of Santa Clarita for approving a 4.2 million-square-foot industrial park that would destroy nearly 1,500 California oak trees.

The Needham Ranch Business Park is slated to be built southwest of the Antelope Valley Freeway and San Fernando Road in Newhall and has been touted as a way to bring quality jobs to Santa Clarita and revitalize Newhall's downtown.

Environmentalists consider the Santa Clarita City Council's approval of the project to be ``selling out'' the values of the city, which has a tree- protection ordinance that praises the ``majestic oaks.''

``It's disturbing because what the city did is agree to accept cash money - they are selling out the oak forests,'' said Cynthia Harris, spokeswoman for the Santa Clarita Oak Conservancy, which filed the lawsuit. ``They are willing to turn their heads on the oak ordinance.''

Harris' concerns were presented to the city in the form of a civil complaint filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The complaint cites ``irreparable harm from which there is no adequate remedy at law in that the project area and surrounding areas would be irrevocably altered and significant adverse impacts on the environment would occur.''

Also discussed in the complaint is the city's approval of a variance to the hillside grading ordinance, which restricts development on the city's ridgelines.

The Santa Clarita city attorney was not available for comment Friday.

City leaders believe that the negative impacts of the business park are heavily outweighed by the positives.

At the June 24 meeting in which Needham Ranch was unanimously approved, the council passed the project despite pleas from residents to block it.

Council members agreed that the environment would be adequately protected, and that the 508-acre project would provide a significant benefit to Santa Clarita by attracting thousands of jobs - possibly more than 6,000 - and millions of dollars in retail sales to downtown Newhall. The City Council also determined that the rural wilderness surrounding the business park would be adequately protected by preserving about 280 acres of pristine land behind Eternal Valley Memorial Park.

The council granted developer Mark Gates a waiver from the city's hillside and ridgeline preservation ordinance because of the positive impacts that the business park would have.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 26, 2003
Words:385
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