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UPDATE: Castaic area high school EIR approved

Hart school board requires dual access eventually

Posted: October 18, 2012 6:00 a.m.
Updated: October 18, 2012 6:22 p.m.

The William S. Hart Union High School District governing board has approved an environmental impact report for a Castaic-area high school in Romero Canyon, but work on the project is far from over.

Following Wednesday night’s EIR approval, the board must send out a notice of determination to both the Los Angeles County Clerk and the California State Clearinghouse for further review on the project.

The board’s notice of determination has to be filed within the next five working days, though a decision on the project can take up to three months, according to the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research.

Tom Cole, the district’s chief operations officer, said he signed the notice himself and the document will be filed soon.

Board President Gloria Mercado-Fortine called approval of the environmental impact report a “significant step forward.”

The board also stipulated that the project — located at the board’s preferred “hybrid site” that combines property from local developer Larry Rasmussen with part of an adjoining parcel — will eventually include dual access roads from both the north and south. Access to the site was the most controversial issue involving the school’s proposed location.

As approved, the plan includes a northern access route from Sloan Canyon Road and Canyon Hill Road with a secondary public southern access point using Barringer, Romero Canyon, Sloan Canyon and Valley Creek roads. The proposal also includes southern gated emergency access using Romero Canyon Road.

The plan was the one with the smallest environmental effect on the area, according to the final EIR for the project.

Though the plan is to have this dual access at the school, the board voted to approve conditions that would allow the school to open even if the southern access route is not completed in time.

These conditions include putting a traffic signal at the intersection of Parker Road and The Old Road, and, if the school were to reach a student population of 1,500 without the southern access road being completed, left turn lanes would be added from Parker Road both directions onto The Old Road. Wendy Wiles, legal counsel for the governing board, said it was important to word the proposal as-is; otherwise the school could be barred from opening if the southern access road were not completed.

Cole said having the flexibility to open the school without the southern access route was important, though he does not anticipate that occurring.

“The chance of the school opening without dual access is remote,” Cole said.

The district has a tentative purchase agreement in place for the preferred site, Cole said. But that agreement will be amended to stipulate that the site be purchased as “construction ready,” which means it could be built on without heavy modifications.

Cole said he hopes to have that revised agreement before the board by Nov. 7, which put the project on pace to break ground near the end of the 2013 first fiscal quarter. This, Cole said, also would keep the project on track for the school’s expected opening date of August 2015.

But both Cole and Mercado-Fortine said the project still has several hurdles to clear and could face delays.
“If it takes a little longer, it’s going to have to take a little longer,” Mercado-Fortine said. “But the ultimate goal, which we will accomplish, is to have a school built in Castaic.”

The proposed school is expected to eventually house up to 2,600 students on a 71.4-acre development within a larger 198-acre site and include up to 250,000 square feet of building area and a 5,000-seat football and soccer stadium with a running track.






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