Castaic Council voices approval of Newhall Ranch project, despite Chiquita worries

Proposed site of Newhall Ranch development, looking southeast on state Route 126 in Castaic. Dan Watson/The Signal.

The Castaic Area Town Council has given its second endorsement to part of the controversial Newhall Ranch housing development – but the board was split, with opponents voting “no” due to uncertainty over the proposed Chiquita Canyon landfill expansion.

An elected advisory board to the county supervisors, the Council, voted 5-3, with one abstention, on Wednesday night to send a letter of support to the supervisors regarding the housing development — an eventual 21,000-home project, part of which, the Landmark Village Project, would be built in Castaic.

The Council had also endorsed the proposal in 2007, and while Wednesday night’s vote merely reiterated that position, the split highlighted concerns from some area residents over Chiquita’s planned expansion.

Newhall Ranch housing development is still awaiting final environmental approval over issues concerning greenhouse gasses and the protected threespine stickleback fish.

The landfill, operated by Waste Connections, has been in operation since 1997, and last year reached its permitted disposal limit if 23 million tons. But the company is seeking to expand operations on its 650-acre site, which is close the proposed development project.

Expansion of the landfill is something many area residents oppose – citing foul odors and health fears, including what they say are cancer risks. Its expansion is also making its way through the environmental approval process.

Lloyd Carder, a member of the Castaic Council, was one of the “no” votes on Wednesday.

“While I approve of the Newhall Ranch project … I’m really concerned about the landfill,’’ Carder said. “Maybe we shouldn’t have schools or parks (in the housing development). There are too many unknowns at this point. … I just don’t want a repeat of what’s going on in Granada Hills.”

He was referring to Granada Hills’ proximity to the Sunshine Canyon landfill in Sylmar.

“There (would be) two projected day-care centers, and an elementary school less than a mile away from the (Chiquita) landfill if it expands,” Carder said. “In Granada Hills, the schools have special filters to filter out smells of the landfill gasses and the kids don’t get to play outside. Sunshine Canyon has a real issue. There’s people that literally can’t open their windows at night because of the smell.’’

Originally, Carder made a motion Wednesday night for the Council to table the proposed letter of approval until Chiquita’s future becomes more certain. But that motion was voted down and the Council then voted 5-3-1 in favor of the letter.

Joining Carder in voting “no” – though not necessarily opposing the Newhall Ranch plan – were Bonnie Nikolai and Jeremiah Dockrey.

Voting in favor of the letter were Council President Sandia Ennis, John Kunak, Dawn Faulconer, and newly installed 2017 members Jeff Preach and Jim D’Addario. Jessica Chambers abstained.

“Castaic schools need kids badly — we need houses and cops and people,’’ said Preach, explaining his “yes” vote. Expansion (of Chiquita) is three years out.’’

As for tying the Newhall Ranch development to Chiquita, Preach said, “It makes no sense, we’re talking apples and oranges. … Some of the folks have an agenda tying the landfill to anything they can.’’

Said Kunak: “It’s an incredibly strong development to get houses in there, and I supported it,’’ said Kunak.

Concerning odors and health worries from the landfill, Chiquita spokesman John Musella has called the landfill a model facility. In December, he said that, of the 257 acres now used as active landfill, less than one acre at any time consists of exposed garbage – and that that trash is “immediately” compacted and covered up.

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