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UPDATE: Newhall Ranch dealt setback

Posted: October 19, 2012 1:08 p.m.
Updated: October 19, 2012 6:18 p.m.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge dealt a blow to Newhall Ranch this week, ordering additional environmental study on the proposed 20,000-home development west of Santa Clarita.

In her decision dated Monday, Judge Ann I. Jones ruled that the project violated certain provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act and that further study of the project was necessary to fully identify and lessen any environmental effects.

The decision reasserts the issues Jones raised in her statement of intended decision, which was released last month.

Newhall Ranch has been in the works for more than a decade.

In June, several environmental groups — including Friends of the Santa Clara River, the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning the Environment, the Center for Biological Diversity and the California Native Plant Society — sued to stop the development, claiming construction could have adverse effects on endangered or threatened species in the area, such as the San Fernando Valley spineflower and the three-spine stickleback fish.

Additionally, the Wishtoyo Foundation is moving to block the project due to alleged potential damage to Native American cultural sites.

John Buse, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the ruling deals a “fundamental setback” to the Newhall Ranch planned development as it affects the entire scope of the project.

“It’s absolutely a huge victory for those concerns about the scope and environmental effects of Newhall Ranch,” Buse said.

Marlee Lauffer, spokeswoman for Newhall Land Development Inc., said the development firm plans to appeal the decision and is working with the California Department of Fish and Game on issues it raises.

Mike Taugher, a spokesman for the Department of Fish and Game, said the agency is still reviewing the court’s decision and had no further comment Friday.

If completed, Newhall Ranch would add a number of commercial areas and more than 20,000 new homes to the northwest Santa Clarita Valley.

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