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Watching Over City Space

Posted: February 9, 2008 2:07 a.m.
Updated: April 11, 2008 2:02 a.m.
The Santa Clarita City Council on Tuesday is set to select five citizens to serve on the Financial Accountability and Audit Panel to oversee the city's Open Space Preservation District that will buy land to preserve as open space.

The City Clerk's office received applications from the following nine Santa Clarita residents: James Farley, Alan Ferdman, Calvin D. Hedman, Michael Hildebrand, Wendy Langhans, Spencer Leafdale, Robert C. Lee, Henry Schultz and Jeffrey Wokurka.
The City Council members will each nominate one applicant to the panel and the full council will decide on the appointments.
Once the members are appointed, the panel will meet on an annual basis to review the annual work program to ensure land acquisition priorities are adhered to, review the funds the city generates through the open space district, work with the city's independent auditor to ensure proper management of the funds, determine whether the proposed expenditures are consistent with the established criteria, and prepare an annual written report for the public.
The City Council, not the panel, will have responsibility of selecting the land.
Santa Clarita property owners approved the formation of the open space district in July to allow the city to collect fees property owner fees to fund the purchase of vacant open space land.
Every year, single family residences now pay a fee of $25, while condominiums, townhomes and apartments pay $18.75 for each unit and mobile home parks pay $12.50 per space. Non-residential properties have various assessment rates as well.
The assessment rate may go up one dollar each year at the discretion of the City Council.
The city has secured about $17 million in Certificate of Participation bonds to begin purchasing natural land before it is developed. The city plans to eventually get another $17 million in bonds to continue buying open space land and will pay back the bonds over the next 30 years with the assessment rate funds collected from property owners.
At least 90 percent of the acres purchased will be preserved as natural open space, according to Open Space Preservation District Engineer's Report. No more than 10 percent of the acres purchased will be used for future improved parkland, such as building new park facilities. Improving the parkland will be funded by "other funding mechanisms" including grants, according to City Treasurer Darren Hernandez.
"The (bonds) are only to buy land, not to improve land," Hernandez said.
City staff anticipates scheduling the first Financial Accountability and Audit Panel meeting by the end of March.
The City Council will meet Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers of City Hall, located at 23920 Valencia Boulevard.


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