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Court Of Appeals Sides With Newhall Land

Court rejects arguments made by RiverVillage opponents.

Sponsored By:

All Creatures Emergency Center

The Second District Court of Appeal (Division 6) ruled in late January that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Newhall Land’s planned RiverVillage community sufficiently addresses water supply, habitat impacts and all other issues raised by opposition groups.

The RiverVillage EIR had been challenged by several groups, including the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Santa Clara River, and the California Water Impact Network, in June 2005. The Los Angeles County Superior Court ruled in favor of Newhall Land and the City of Santa Clarita in August of 2006. The appellate court ruling affirms the trial court’s decision.

RiverVillage is located within the company’s highly successful and award-winning town of Valencia.

“This ruling is yet another endorsement of our commitment to designing balanced, environmentally sensitive communities and a clear rejection of our opponents’ constant abuse of the legal system to try to slow or stop smart growth,” said Marlee Lauffer, Newhall Land spokesperson.

RiverVillage’s 695 acres will include 1,000 new homes, a two-mile extension of the
Santa Cara River Trail and a 29-acre public park. Its environmentally sustainable design calls for the dedication of more than half of the property to the City of Santa Clarita as natural open space, and another dedication of more than 300-plus acres in off-site conservation easements to protect the adjacent Santa Clara River.

The RiverVillage ruling is the second Court of Appeals decision in the last four months that has upheld EIRs for Newhall Land communities. The first decision, issued in November 2007, rejected all opponent allegations regarding the company’s West Creek community.

Both decisions are the first decisions to interpret the California Supreme Court’s recent decision in Vineyard Area Citizens for Responsible Growth, Inc. v. City of Rancho Cordova (2007) 40 Cal.4th 412, as mod. (Apr. 18, 2007), and both decisions demonstrate that the EIRs conform to state law requirements.

Both the RiverVillage and the West Creek rulings set guidelines for EIR water supply analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act, interpreting a number of the California Supreme Court’s most debated water policy statements. These rulings will be added to the relatively few published and unpublished decisions addressing the information an EIR must include for analyzing water supplies.