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Santa Clarita City Council To Fix Open Space Buys With Different Funds

Santa Clarita City Council members will be reviewing a recommendation to fix a mistake regarding land purchased with the city’s Open Space Preservation District fund for land outside that district.

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The city purchased hundreds of acres with OSPD dollars that were directed for land that must be within a 3-mile radius of the city.

“Upon further review, it has been determined that the benefit area does not extend with additional open space acquisitions,” according to city documents. “Consequently, only a portion of the Nominn property is included within the boundary, and the Williams property is entirely outside.”

The idea of the OSPD established under Proposition 218 is to spend money that has a direct benefit to city residents, which was why the three-mile zone was established, said City Councilman TimBen Boydston.

“The city made a mistake, and I’m grateful that members of the financial accountability panel caught it, and now we need to fix it,” Boydston said. “Because the people that voted for this measure set very specific rules, and one of those rules was that the property must be within that 3-mile zone.”

City staffers are recommending that City Council members aprrove a dollar-for-dollar exchange of OSPD district funds that are considered “restrictive,” with general fund and mitigation fund dollars that lack those restrictions, said Darren Hernandez, director of Adminstrative Services for the city.

“Typically with each (OSPD purchase), we’ve used a blend of funds,” Hernandez said, naming several sources for grant money.

“The way the issue is being remedied is to exchange funds the OSPD funds that were used onto purchase the Williams parcel and the Nominn parcel that were too far away with unrestricted funds that were used to finance OSPD (purchases),” Hernandez said.

The Rio Dulce Ranch, also known as the Nominn parcel -- east of the city starting at about Agua Dulce Canyon Road -- is about a 1,000-acre contiguous parcel of land about 3.5 miles outside of city limits. The Williams parcel was about 50 acres located about 4.5 miles outside of city limits.

Originally, about $1.4 million of restricted OSPD dollars were used for the Nominn parcel, and that figure is now $55,482, about 2.5 percent of the OSPD allocation, because that was deemed the amount of land in the three-mile zone authorized for OSPD purchases.

The Williams parcel was purchased for $178,582, most of which, about $161,084, was used from OSPD dollars.

“There's a concern that perhaps a piece of property was purchased outside of the 3-mile benefit district,” said Spencer Leafdale, who serves on the oversight panel that reviews purchases for the Open Space Preservation District, ahead of an Oct. 2 hearing to examine the purchase.

Leafdale, who was appointed to the OSPD advisory board by Mayor Bob Kellar in 2007, noticed the discrepancy and brought it to the panel for discussion.

“I suspect there was a mistake made,” he said before the Oct. 2 meeting. “Let’s wait and see what they have to say.”

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Santa Clarita City Council To Fix Open Space Buys With Different Funds

Article: Santa Clarita City Council To Fix Open Space Buys With Different Funds
Source: Santa Clarita News
Author: Perry Smith