Santa Clarita hosts meeting with residents to discuss proposed Sand Canyon resort

Full house at City Hall as residents voice opinions on proposed Sand Canyon Resort on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Tammy Murga/ The Signal

Nestled against the Angeles National Forest, homes in the Sand Canyon community rest under a visibly starry night and on vast lands quiet enough to hear the surrounding wildlife.

While only a couple of miles from the city life, residents have indulged in these features for years, but many wonder whether that would change with the addition of a proposed plush resort within the rural neighborhood.

Approximately 60 residents attended a scoping meeting at Santa Clarita City Hall on Tuesday night to ask just that of the proposed Sand Canyon Hotel and Resort project, a 75-acre development with multiple amenities such as hotels, ballrooms and restaurants.

Though the session was not a hearing, residents had the opportunity to voice any concerns for data-collecting purposes in preparation for an environmental impact report.

“This is not a hearing. There is no decision to be made. This is simply to show you the project and to inform you of the EIR process,” Hai Nguyen, associate planner with the city, said to attendees.

In a presentation by the city staff and project consultants, a list of topics for study in the EIR included air and water quality, geology and soils, greenhouse gases, aesthetics, land use, tribal cultural resources, transportation and traffic.  

More than 10 residents who stood up to speak at a podium highlighted several of those issues listed, with most circulating around zone change and traffic of a project that has grown in size since Steve Kim, CEO of Sand Canyon Country Club, last shared information on it earlier this year.

The Sand Canyon Resort’s plans include, among other things:

  • A three-story, main hotel with 250 rooms, originally 217, across four buildings
  • A wedding hotel with 72 rooms and an outdoor venue
  • A grand ballroom that would accommodate 500 people, a junior ballroom and multiple meeting rooms
  • More than 31,000 square feet of spa, sauna and gym space, which was once envisioned as a 24,440-square-foot center
  • Three restaurants and outdoor recreation such as two pools, nine-hole miniature golf course and three miles of trails

“The development has increased enormously since it was originally presented to us,” said Ruthann Levison, Sand Canyon Homeowners Association president. “That’s going to change our canyon enormously after fighting very hard to maintain a rural atmosphere.”

To help keep country living alive, residents “made sure the special standards districts ordinance was adopted within the city when the city came to be,” Levison said.

Special standards districts refer to communities that maintain, preserve and enhance the character of a location. Sand Canyon’s is defined as “rural and equestrian,” as stated in the city’s districts code.

An 18-hole golf course originally opened as the Robinson Ranch Golf Course in 2000, and was renamed as Sand Canyon Country Club last year.

“When the Robinson Ranch project came up, the canyon as a whole thought that a high-end, low-key golf course was preferable to 300 or 400 more houses,” said Levison. “We worked hard to make sure there was some assurance, still, to keep things rural.”
Now Sand Canyon residents say they are having a similar conversation with the proposed hotel and resort.

“As the city grows, open space is important to the people that live there,” said John Paladin, an attorney in Valencia. “This development will create too many car trips, and that’s not consistent with the neighborhood.”

Some residents reiterated that the EIR should consider potential traffic increases not just outside the resort but also on the State Route 14 freeway, Placerita Canyon Road and Soledad Canyon Road.

“If you have a wedding venue, that would attract hundreds of people every weekend … and there’s only one access road right now,” said Susan Carey, a 20-year resident of Canyon Country.

On behalf of several other residents who did not attend Tuesday’s meeting, Levison read a list of 10 concerns for EIR consideration, which included access roads during emergency situations, zoning, water usage and the completion of an economic analysis.

“‘Will there be an economic analysis that demonstrates sustainability?’” she said, reading the concerns.

Still, those at the scoping meeting said they were neither for or against the development so long as “it’s done properly,” resident John Higby said.  

“Sand Canyon is a unique place and we fought to keep it a unique place,” he said. “I’m not here against the project or for the project but I request that you take us (direct neighbors) into consideration.”

Nguyen said comments can still be submitted for the EIR by Nov. 16. To submit a comment, by mail at 23920 Valencia Blvd., Suite 302, Santa Clarita 91355 or by email at  [email protected] with subject “Proposed Sand Canyon project.”  

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