Email to county sparks dispute between Castaic Town Council members

A truck moves up a work road leading through the proposed expansion site in the foreground, looking north-west at the high walls of the existing land fill site of the Chiquita Land Fill in Castaic on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal
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An email written by the Castaic Town Council president about Chiquita Canyon Landfill has caused a rift between town council members and has resulted in some members requesting for him to step down.

President Lloyd Carder sent an email to the planning assistant for the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning in July, asking for a notice of determination for the landfill expansion.

Also, Carder asked how to retract already approved housing projects because of health impacts, citing the Landmark Village project’s proximity to the landfill, and said the council was concerned.

According to council member Jeff Preach, Carder was pushing his own agenda and had “no right” to send the email because he did not take it up for a vote with the council beforehand.

“It is an illegal letter and we should have him step down immediately before he does anything else,” Preach said.

While Carder’s action is not “illegal,” the Castaic Town Council bylaws state that council members must accurately reflect positions and concerns of the residents in their policies and actions.

Council members can be removed if they cause a “misrepresentation of established purpose” of the council.

According to Preach, Carder’s email did not reflect what residents want or what the council wants.

“He has an agenda aligned with (Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment) and environmentalists and he’s gone awry,” Preach said. “He’s got an agenda and it’s a sick agenda. He doesn’t represent me and my constituents.”

To Carder, his email was acting in the interest of Castaic residents, who he said elected him primarily because of his opposition of the landfill.

“This should not be a shock that we oppose this,” Carder said. “There are major concerns in my community.”

Carder voted in favor of the Landmark Village project under the assumption Chiquita Canyon would close in 2019, he said. Because the landfill was extended for 30 years, he wants to reassess.

Reaching out to the county was not only Carder’s idea, he said, but other council members’ as well.

“They know exactly where I was coming from because they were asking the same thing,” Carder said. “I’m just asking questions. I wasn’t taking a stand.”

This is not the first time Carder and other council members have disagreed, particularly Preach and John Kunak, on environmental issues and otherwise, he said.

Much of the animosity stems from Carder’s position as president, according to council member Bonnie Nikolai. Carder does not like the Lions Club’s support of Chiquita Canyon, which Preach is a member of, and Kunak wanted to maintain his seat as president instead of Carder, she said.

Nikolai said she has no problem with any council member “asking for guidance on an item” as Carder did concerning the landfill.

For the most part, Nikolai said she likes to stay out of disputes between council members, but she would speak up if others tried to get Carder to step down because she does not think he broke any bylaws.

Though Nikolai said she also opposes the landfill, she is not sure why the council is still having a conversation about it because litigation has been filed by environmental groups and they cannot do anything to reverse their decision.

“There are all these other issues we need to be focusing on,” she said.

John Kunak did not respond for comment.

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