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Senior project speeds toward final approval

Heritage oaks to be removed if development approved by planners

Posted: July 21, 2008 1:43 a.m.
Updated: September 21, 2008 5:04 a.m.
Stevenson Ranch residents, shocked to learn a senior citizens housing project is about to become a done deal, are preparing their arguments and questions for the last scheduled public meeting on the plan.

"Everyone down here is in shell shock at how fast this project is being processed," said Sagecrest Circle homeowner David Snell. "They're really trying to slip this one in under the wire."

The planned project is the Lyons Canyon Ranch housing development which calls for 93 single-family lots and 93 condos, all intended for seniors, on more than 231 acres, next door to the Ed Davis Park in Towsley Canyon.

The senior citizen community will be accessible by The Old Road.

Only one public meeting, scheduled for July 30, stands between today and the day the plan is approved by the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission.

Snell told The Signal last week that he plans to inform as many of his neighbors as possible about the upcoming hearing.

Plans for the project were submitted to the county two years ago, almost to the day, by project developers Western Pacific Housing, Inc.

There have been some modifications made to the plans - asking permission to extend the height restriction from 35 to 50 feet for two condominium buildings.

Aside from height changes and grading permits sought to cut into the side of a hill at the back of the proposed project, the single largest impact will be the removal of 13 large oak trees.

The oaks are considered heritage oaks - trees older than America itself.

Heritage Oaks - such as Valley Oak, California Live Oak, Black Oak and Blue Oak - that have a trunk 36 inches in circumference are deemed because of their age, size, location, visibility, historic nature or other unique attributes, to be heritage trees and, accordingly, trees that deserve special consideration for preservation and protection.

The project seeks permission to dig up 162 oak trees, 13 of which are heritage oaks. It also seeks permission from the county to encroach on another 52 oak trees, six of which were growing when the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Aside from whatever concerns residents have for the protection and preservation of the oaks, residents such as Snell are also concerned about increased traffic and noise expected through the area.

At the moment, a dirt fire road that cuts through the back of the property is a road to constant brush parties, according to Snell who has complained more than once to county officials.

The area once popular among paintball enthusiasts is now popular among people who like to drink and gather outdoors.

"The first concern I have is about the people who drive out there and party, coming in on trucks, and joyriders," Snell said. "The second concern I have is the project itself. I didn't realize it was going through."

Snell is concerned the developer will build on the existing fire trail that serves brush party-goers.

The Lyons Canyon Ranch project, also called the Warner Ranch project, calls for more than nine acres of land to be re-zoned from heavy agricultural use to "unlimited commercial" use and calls for some special hillside grading.

Jasch Janowicz, director of planning for The Daly Group, consultants hired by the project's developer, D. R. Horton, told The Signal earlier this month that a tree expert, hired by the developer, would assess the health of the trees sometime this fall to determine how and if they could be transplanted.

The planning commission will hold its last public hearing on the Lyons Canyon Ranch project July 30, after which time the project will be approved and sent to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for review of a zoning change requested by the developer.


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