Planning Commission says Sand Canyon resort plan ‘needs some work’

Site plan of the Sand Canyon resort project as proposed on the northeast corner of Sand Canyon Road and Robinson Ranch Road. Courtesy of the city of Santa Clarita

After hundreds of Sand Canyon residents gathered last year to voice opposition on how a proposed 77-acre resort could affect their quiet, rural community, several spoke out again Tuesday, this time before the Santa Clarita Planning Commission. 

Commissioners heard from more than a dozen residents during a public hearing in what was the project’s formal introduction. 

The project in question calls for transforming Los Angeles resident Steve Kim’s Sand Canyon Country Club into a resort and spa, with features, including: four 3-story hotels; 14 2-story villas; multiple dining options and outdoor recreation for trails, swimming, tennis and pickleball and an existing 27-hole golf course, as well as the removal of 21 non-heritage oak trees and a zone change from “open space” to “community commercial” for two of the four proposed site lots. 

The project site is located on the northeast corner of Sand Canyon Road and Robinson Ranch Road.

Visual simulation of the Sand Canyon resort project as proposed on the northeast corner of Sand Canyon Road and Robinson Ranch Road. Courtesy of the city of Santa Clarita, MGS Architecture and MVE + Partners, Inc.

Speakers who identified themselves as residents of the community, which has a population of about 2,000, raised concerns over viability, potential increased traffic and its effects on emergency evacuations, and the zone changes. 

In acknowledging residents’ concerns mentioned in previous community meetings, Konnie Debreva, who spoke on behalf of Kim, said during the public hearing their questions would be addressed in the draft environmental impact report, which is expected to be released to the public on Nov. 23, for a 60-day review period, according to city senior planner Patrick Leclair. 

Debreva also sought to assure residents the resort and golf course would “generate millions of dollars of revenue for the city each year,” as well as bring recreational benefits and sustainability features. 

Area residents who opposed the plan said a potential increase in the city’s revenue base isn’t a valid basis for “violating perpetual land use and open space restrictions” that have been relied on by property owners.

Sand Canyon residents have expressed in the past that the zone change would threaten the neighborhood’s rural lifestyle with increased traffic, street lights, noise and multistory buildings. 

The community is a special standards district under Chapter 17.39 of the Santa Clarita Municipal Code, meaning the area is to “maintain, preserve and enhance the rural and equestrian character of Sand Canyon.” 

“Sand Canyon is a rural residential area. This would be a travesty for our community,” said Ruthann Levison, member of a task force formed in August 2019 to stop the project from moving forward. “I mean, it would render our special standards district. With zoning changing to ‘community commercial’ zoning, we could end up with a Walmart, gas stations and goodness knows what else in our rural residential area.” 

Commissioner Lisa Eichman said considering the zoning change would put commissioners in “an uncomfortable position.” 

“I think perpetuity means forever, and it doesn’t mean that we’re going to take away what we gave you and give you who knows what,” she said. “That’s never going to happen. I don’t think it’s fair to this community.”

Debreva, who only commented on the proposed zone change, said the project’s request is a legal one. 

“This project is not encumbered legally by any conservation easement or any easement that requires it to remain as open space in perpetuity,” she said. 

Commissioners also called for a special events traffic study to show how traffic would be impacted by high volumes of vehicles, different architecture to stay consistent with surrounding structures and more on whether the project is financially viable. 

For now, the project “needs some work,” said Eichman. 

Tuesday’s introductory presentation did not require any action from commissioners. A second meeting before them is scheduled for Jan. 19, where commissioners and the public can expect to receive answers to concerns raised and a review of the EIR. 

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