OK expected for open space
SANTA CLARITA – Reviving its bid to shield pockets of land from development, the City Council plans tonight to greenlight an open-space preservation measure that would voted upon by property owners. The mail-in ballot would ask landowners if they should be taxed at least $25 annually for 30 years to help buy and conserve developable land. “Golden Valley Ranch was about 1,350 acres picked up at an unbelievably small price,” said Councilman Bob Kellar, noting that the developer, who paid about $2.5 million at a tax sale, later reserved nearly 1,000 acres for open space. “What an opportunity that was for the city – we should have had it all.” Kellar is a real-estate agent who co-owns Kellar Davis Real Estate. Earmarking resources for land buys would simplify matters the next time a good deal arises, he said. The new proposal comes in the wake of a failed November 2005 effort that aimed to protect parkland and open space. There was no organized opposition, but “no” votes by owners of mobile-home parks and apartment buildings, large landowners and utility companies were enough to defeat it. Key parcels have not been identified for potential city purchase, but larger plots could lie outside city limits because few are left in town, Kellar said. “When you talk about the value of land, there’s a huge swing between land that is buildable and land that is raw,” said RE/MAX Realtor Neal Weichel, who’s been in the business for 17 years. “My friend has three parcels in Sand Canyon over an acre that would probably (fetch) $600,000 an acre. You add a view that can add $200,000 to a lot if it’s a nice enough view.” Land in the Castaic hills zoned for low-density projects, with no water connections or access – which would cost a mint to grade – could go for $10,000 to $20,000 an acre, he said. And a quarter-acre in Val Verde that today goes for up to $80,000 would be worth a lot more years later if a sewer is laid. Then there’s the custom acre lot in a gated Westridge community. “I sold one last year for $1.5 million,” he said. “Everything a developer or builder wants to build a dream home is there … all you have to do is tell the builder: Start building.” Land in outlying areas that was undesirable 20 years ago, before other tracts landed like stepping stones to its door, is valued today. Weichel sees the city’s reasoning. “It makes sense to buy stuff at $20,000 to $30,000 (an) acre and set aside 600, 900, 1,000 acres,” he said. “Someday it might be worth 50 times that.” Under the proposal, homeowners would be assessed $25 a year for 30 years, with an increase of $1 allowed each year. Matching funds would be sought. The flat rate of $25 per single-family home could be used to borrow $23.4 million immediately, city Treasurer Darren Hernandez has said. A $1-a-year increase would support a $34.6 million bond issue. Ballots could be sent out around May 25 and voters would have 45 days to return them. [email protected] (661) 257-5255 IF YOU GO: The Santa Clarita City Council will meet at 6 p.m. today at City Hall, 23920 Valencia Blvd. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!