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Cleanup site still in city’s focus

Officials hope to develop Whittaker-Bermite some day

Posted: November 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: November 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.

While the deadline long since passed for Santa Clarita to partner with a developer to buy the nearly 1,000 acres of land at the Whittaker-Bermite site, the city is still actively working in concert with the Lewis Group in hope of one day developing the property, city officials said.

The city has been working in partnership with Lewis Group to speed up cleanup of the property, said Jeff Hogan, planning manager for the city of Santa Clarita.

Sometimes dubbed “the donut hole” because of its now-strategic location in the center of the city, the Whittaker-Bermite property just south of the Saugus Speedway was the site of a munitions manufacturing operation for decades and is polluted with ammonium perchlorate and some other contaminants.

At one point, it was envisioned as the home for a large housing development, but those plans for the so-named Porta Bella community went out the window when the site’s former owners — Remediation Financial Inc. and Santa Clarita LLC, an Arizona-based company — filed for bankruptcy in 2002.

The city remains interested in seeing the property developed and using part of the land to connect major east-west roads planned to traverse the Santa Clarita Valley, said Jason Crawford, marketing and economic development manager for the city.

Officials hope any development there includes a business park and retail centers that would also provide jobs, contributing to the city’s goal of providing two jobs for every household, Crawford said.

“We want to make sure it’s a balanced project,” he said.

The Lewis Group focuses on developing mixed-use, planned communities and residential subdivisions in California and Nevada, as well as shopping centers, office parks and industrial buildings.

However, the property is currently under the management of California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control, part of the state’s Environmental Protection Agency.

Santa Clarita officials continue to track the progress of the cleanup in coordination with the DTSC and the Whittaker Corp., which is financially responsible for the cleanup, Hogan said.

And the city is still pursuing a partnership to buy the property. But the proposal is complicated by issues of liability, lien holders and the cost of the land, he said.

No one wants to buy property with that kind of liability, Hogan said. So the city continues to work with the state of California, insurance companies, lien holders and the Lewis Group to ensure resolution of the cleanup, Hogan said.



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