Smart Growth SCV looking to better understand Environmental Impact Report.
The summer vacation for the Henry Mayo campus expansion debate has officially ended.
Today, a local group asked the City of Santa Clarita to schedule a public hearing and extend the public comment period for the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) in order to provide residents enough time to ask questions. Shortly afterwards, the City agreed to satisfy the request and a public hearing date was set.
The hospital and their partner, G&L Realty have been battling staunch opposition for four years trying to get a master plan for a major campus expansion passed through City Hall.
The plan originally included five parking structures, four medical office buildings, one hospital administration building and a new inpatient hospital facility. Over the years, traffic, parking and office vs. hospital space debates prompted changes to the plan, which now proposes three medical office buildings, three parking structures and a new hospital tower.
A revised EIR was drafted over the course of the last year and was released in June. This document details the entire 15-year project, and measures the impact it would have on the surrounding community.
Once an EIR is released, state law mandates that a public comment period of at least 45 days must be provided by the City. During that time, City staff must reply to every written comment sent to them by the public.
This is designed to make sure that the public has enough time to ask questions and understand the project.
According to Smart Growth SCV, the main opposition group to Henry Mayo/G&L’s Master Plan, the City of Santa Clarita has historically scheduled a separate public hearing during the comment period and they have made the EIR available for review not only at City Hall, but also at every local library.
In this case, Smart Growth SCV claims that they did not have enough time to review the document, and that the EIR was only made available in its full form on a CD-ROM, which they say some of their members could not access. Additionally, a public hearing was never scheduled by the City.
The City may not be required by law to hold a public hearing, however lawyers for Smart Growth SCV argue that since the City set a precedent by historically adhering to the above described public process, abandoning that precedent arbitrarily may be a violation.
There was also some confusion over the official end date for the 45 day public comment period. Officially, the end date is August 11th; however City noticing required all comments to be turned in by Friday, August 8th.
Shortly after Smart Growth SCV raised these issues publicly, the City issued the following statement, which is printed in full below:
The City will be re-circulating the 2008 HMNMH Master Plan Project, Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report, (RDEIR) due to a conflicting date in the notice for comments. In the notice, there are two “end comment” dates; August 11 and August 8 for the 45-day response period.
Due to this conflict, and in the City’s continuing efforts to provide excellent public participation to the public it serves, the City will re-start the 45-day process to ensure full and complete opportunities for the public to comment. The new comment period will begin on August 13, 2008 and end at 5 p.m. on September 29, 2008.
Additionally, there will be a public hearing on the 2008 RDEIR on September 9, 2008 at the regularly scheduled City Council meeting, beginning at 6 p.m. at City Hall, Council Chambers, 23920 Valencia Boulevard, Santa Clarita. The City wants to make sure that everyone who wishes to participate in the comment process for the Hospital expansion project has an opportunity to do so.
The 2008 Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report currently being circulated for the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital expansion project is the third EIR to circulate on this project.
The City provided a hard copy of the 2008 document to Smart Growth SCV and SCOPE. Hard copies of the 2008 RDEIR have also been available at the local libraries, City Clerk’s Office at City Hall and the Planning Counter at City Hall since June 26, 2008, along with all of the appendices. Requests for copies of the documents can be made to the City during normal business hours by contacting the City’s Planning division at 661-255-4330.
Further, a copy of all Revised Draft EIR documents have been available on the City’s website at www.santa-clarita.com  since June 26, 2008. Anyone requesting a copy of the documents was provided with them. All known requests for documents have been fulfilled by the City. The City is unaware of any requests for these documents that have not been fulfilled.
At the end of the new 45-day comment period for the 2008 RDEIR, City staff will provide written responses to all written and oral comments.
To date, a total of nine Planning Commission hearings on the project have been held between October 2005 and November 2006. A total of five public hearings on the project have been held at the City Council between June 2007 and September 2007.
-City of Santa Clarita
Smart Growth SCV chairman David Gauny was quick to thank the City for listening to his group’s concerns. His prepared statement is also printed in full below:
On behalf of the members of Smart Growth SCV, I am very pleased that the city has chosen to respect the concerns of the many residents from all over our valley who demanded an extended comment period on the new Environmental Report for the G&L Realty/Henry Mayo project.
While it is true that this project has been under review for many years, the new studies conducted, the major entitlement change, and the many revisions made to correct significant errors in the previous version all require a full staff presentation to the community and council in order for the public to submit relevant comments for response.
Our city has an outstanding tradition of listening to its citizens. While this becomes increasingly difficult with growth, it is essential to protecting the city we love and live in and, in this case, ensuring that we have a true expansion of our valley's inpatient services.
We are proud to see the city honor this request. It was the right choice.
Smart Growth SCV
The importance of this new Environmental Impact Report is that it studies the physical impacts the new plan has on the surrounding area. Since the plan has decreased in size significantly, the potential impacts had to be re-evaluated.
Pending the results of the study, the City Council may be satisfied with the project, and it could move forward. If not, further changes could be requested of Henry Mayo/G&L.