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City Council to fix land fund mix-up

Closer look reveals properties purchased were ineligible for open space funds

Posted: October 9, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 9, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Members of the Santa Clarita City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night for a fund transfer to address the fact that money from the city’s Open Space Preservation District fund was improperly used in the purchase of land in the Soledad Canyon area.

The issue stemmed from two purchases, the 1,030-acre Nominn property and 56.4-acre Williams property, both of which are either entirely or partly outside of the three-mile benefit area boundary for the open space district.

A percentage of the money used for both purchases was made up of Open Space Preservation District funds, which can only be used to purchase land within the benefit area boundary.

City Manager Ken Striplin said one of the issues was uncertainty over the boundaries of the open space benefit area because the area only extends three miles from the city, not necessarily three miles away from other open space areas owned by the city.

As a result, and after a review of the land parcels by counsel, members of the Financial Accountability and Audit Panel for the Open Space Preservation District and others, a portion of the Nominn purchase area and the entire Williams purchase area were found to be outside the benefit area and thus ineligible for Open Space Preservation District funds, Striplin said.

To resolve the issue, council members voted to transfer unrestricted funds used to purchase properties located within the benefit area boundary with the open space preservation district funds used to purchase the parcels.
Those in attendance at Tuesday’s council meeting praised the city for working to address the issue once it came to light.

“This was an honest mistake on the part of the city in its zeal to preserve this land that is very worthy of preservation,” said James Farley, a member of the Financial Accountability and Audit Panel who spoke as a private citizen at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Speakers also said the fact that the error was caught proves the system of accountability works.

“This is government working and doing what’s right,” said Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar.
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