City Council Addresses Quigley Canyon Dispute
City officials kicked off their meeting Tuesday with a tribute to two longtime Santa Clarita figures — former Mayor Cameron Smyth and soon-to-be-departing City Manager Ken Pulskamp.
Smyth returns to Santa Clarita so he can spend more time with his family after being termed out of his state Assembly seat. Scott Wilk will be sworn in Monday to fill his seat.
“This is my second one, so I guess now I have a key to the front and back door,” Smyth joked after accepting a key to the city. He received another ceremonial key when he left the council in 2000.
Smyth was on the City Council that hired Ken Pulskamp as the city’s second permanent city manager in 2002, a move Smyth called one of the best decisions he ever made. Pulskamp had been Santa Clarita’s assistant city manager since 1988.
Pulskamp will be taking the job of city manager of Burbank after he leaves Santa Clarita effective at the end of this week The city is throwing a party Dec. 14 to recognize his contributions to Santa Clarita.
Council members also heard a report from the spokeswoman for the Santa Clarita International Program, aka Sister Cities. Santa Clarita has two cities with which it partners and provides aid: Tena, Ecuador and Sariaya, Philippines. The city is looking to add a third sister city, possibly in Brazil.
[Click here] for information on the sister cities program.
The city’s agenda ranged from contracts to purchase natural-gas buses to a pair of lengthy debates over property rights within city limits.
The first debate involved a heated dispute in the Quigley Canyon neighborhood between Ann I. Jones – a resident of the neighborhood who is also the San Fernando Valley judge recently accused of a conflict of interest by The Newhall Land and Farming Co. – and the Hairell family, which was seeking a lot subdivision. Jones was represented by an attorney at the council meeting.
In the end, the council voted 5-0 to approve a resolution that overturning the Planning Commission’s Oct. 17 denial of the lot-split.
The Hairell family owns a 2-acre lot in Quigley Canyon and wants to divide the flag-shaped parcel into two lots – resulting in pair of one-acre lots, as allowed under the city’s One Valley One Vision general plan and the special standards for Placerita Canyon.
Councilman Bob Kellar said it was a question of property rights and cited a similar personal experience when he moved into an oak tree-studded Sand Canyon neighborhood that was subsequently built up.
Even though he might not be thrilled by how much less rustic scenery is visible from his backyard now, compared to 1979, “It’s America, and I have the best neighbors that anyone could ask for,” Kellar said, before moving the resolution for approval.
Most residents who spoke in opposition to the lot split Tuesday said a 1-acre lot was insufficient to preserve the equestrian nature of the community, and said the lot’s odd shape made it apparent it was being gerrymandered to avoid flood plain restrictions.
The resolution council members approved, likely to be finalized at the council’s next meeting, followed a staff recommendation that noted only 5,000 square feet were needed for a lot to support equestrian facilities, according to city ordinance.
Planning Commissioner Diane Trautman was on the majority side of the 3-2 vote that denied the split in October.
“I think that from the comments that were made by (commissioners) Dennis Ostrom and Lisa Eichman, I would say that we were all in agreement that in did not keep with the integrity of the equestrian community,” Trautman said Tuesday.
“The thing is, when you put policies and regulations in place, you need to do so with some flexibility, and I appreciate that, and I think that’s what’s been done,” Trautman said. “It leaves it open to interpretation, and in this case the Planning Commission put the emphasis on the value of maintaining the integrity of the equestrian community in that area, protecting the values of surrounding properties and the safety of residents,” she said, referring to concerns brought up Tuesday night regarding the lot’s position in respect to the area’s flood plain.
“The council obviously felt that it was adequately addressed,” she said. “And the Planning Commission did not.”
The council’s action Tuesday overturns the Planning Commission’s earlier denial. Approval of the lot split is expected, but it would require council action at a later date.