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Appeal on property split planned

Posted: October 21, 2012 11:25 a.m.
Updated: October 21, 2012 11:25 a.m.

A father has vowed to continue his dead son’s quest to subdivide a two-acre plot in Placerita Canyon, despite the Santa Clarita Planning Commission’s decision to deny the land split.

“We just felt (the commission’s) objections were unfounded,” Michael Hairell said Saturday. “We met the necessary criteria without a problem.”

Hairell said he plans to file an appeal with the City Council.

The Planning Commission ruled Tuesday that a subdivision of the property at 24837 Quigley Canyon Road would violate both the city’s oak tree ordinance and the Placerita Canyon special standards district, which restricts some development to maintain the area’s rural and equestrian character.

The proposal was originally presented at the Sept. 18 commission meeting. By a 3-2 margin, commissioners agreed to direct staff to draw up a document outlining the commission’s reasons for denying the proposal. They then approved that document Tuesday by a 4-1 vote.

The project’s original applicant, Curtis Hairell, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound last month. Michael Hairell, Curtis’ father, said he thinks the project’s denial was the “last straw” for his son.

“There is no doubt in my mind that they are related,” Michael Hairell said. “Curtis was very depressed over this.”
A resident of Placerita Canyon, Michael Hairell said he believes the Planning Commission was unduly influenced by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ann I. Jones, who lives adjacent to the property and was among the vocal opponents of the development.

Jones wrote a letter to the commission explaining her belief that staff investigations into the community and environmental impacts of the proposed development were insufficient.

“The initial study’s incorrect characterization of the community and apparent hostility toward equestrian uses have resulted in a document that fails to appreciate the significant impacts that would result from this second subdivision of property, and the need for further environmental review of those impacts,” Jones wrote.

Jones is also the presiding judge in the Newhall Ranch development case and issued a ruling calling for further environmental study last Monday.

Mary Hearn, acting director of public information for the Los Angeles County Superior Court, said Jones could not comment on whether objecting to the proposed development could represent a conflict of interest when ruling on the Newhall Ranch case.

Hearn also said the court could not comment on whether Jones was barred from speaking on the matter by statute or was refusing to comment.

Diane Trautman, a member of the commission, said she voted against the project because she was worried it might set a new standard for development that she was uncomfortable with.

“If you make exceptions and you make exceptions and you make exceptions, then soon you don’t have that kind of neighborhood anymore,” she said.
Commissioner Chuck Heffernan was the only commissioner to vote in support of the proposal both times. He said he believes the project is in compliance with all relevant city and area ordinances and would not have the kind of impact Trautman described.

Heffernan said projects in that area are allowed to be built at a density of one unit per acre, which the proposal would have complied with.

“There are very, very, very many lots in that area that are one acre and smaller,” he said.

Michael Hairell said he is unsure when council members will hear the appeal, but he expects it to be at one of their two November meetings, either Nov. 13 or Nov. 27.


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