Possible sites for Castaic High School narrowed down.
It was standing-room only at the William S. Hart School District offices Wednesday night, as the Governing Board voted to dismiss one of the three possible sites for a new Castaic High School. The Green Valley Ranch property will no longer be considered, but Environmental Impact Reports and other due diligence procedures will be carried out for both the Romero and Hasley/Sloan properties.
With the crowd spilling out to the lobby, the special meeting included reports from a panel of three experts, followed by public comment and board discussion. The panel: Daryl Zerfass of Austin-Foust Associates discussed traffic considerations; Joe Cota of Earth Resources described the geological and soil composition for each site; and Karl Mallick of CCL Engineering elaborated on issues of construction.
The panel provided analysis for the three properties being considered by the board: Romero, Hasley/Sloan, and Green Valley Ranch. The first is located near Romero Canyon Road and is owned by local developer Larry Rasmussen. The second site was purchased by the District's Facilities Foundation seven years ago and is located off Hasley Canyon and Sloan Canyon Roads. The third site is located to the south of the others near the community of Val Verde and is owned by the Sterling Gateway partnership, represented by Hunt Williams.
District Superintendent Jaime Castellanos acknowledged the tension in the roon in his opening remarks, encouraging those present to "take a deep breath; let's try to relax."
Board member Paul Strickland earned cheers and applause early on when he moved to postpone any decision until December 9. After that date, the newly elected members of the board, Joe Messina and Bob Jensen, will be seated. The motion was not seconded and did not reach a vote.
Once selected, any site will need approval from the state level before building can begin. When asked about the relative difficulty in gaining state approval for each site, Cota concluded that the two northern sites (Romero and Hasley/Sloan) had less problematic soil composition. Zerfass mentioned that more than one point of access is preferable. He referenced the single access road for Romero Canyon, though the ease of access for Hasley/Sloan was later brought into question during public comments. According to Mallick, from a construction standpoint cost is the only distinguishing factor between each project. District estimates currently indicate Romero as the most expensive property.
Rasmussen contested some of the panel's findings, saying they had overestimated the Romero site's potential costs. He stated that his property is in the center of future development in Castaic, and also pointed out that it has received many of the necessary permits to begin work.
To these concerns, a host of additional issues were added by other stakeholders and community members. Public comments were scheduled for two minutes per person, but due to time constraints, Chairman Steven Sturgeon informed speakers they would be limited to 1.5 minutes. Doubts were voiced over the ease of obtaining permits, the necessity of bridges near the Hasley/Sloan site, and the Board's methods in estimating costs. Though advocacy was discouraged due to the fact-finding focus of the special meeting, many spoke in favor of delaying any vote.
The district estimates the developing and purchasing costs for the Romero property at approximately $35 million. Since the district already owns Hasley/Sloan through the Facilities Foundation, its costs are estimated at approximately $16.8 million. Estimates could not be made for the Green Valley property due to unknown land value. So far, the selection process for Castaic High School has taken the Hart District longer than any other district in California.
"This has been a very emotional and political issue in our valley," said board member Dennis King. "more so than it should have been."