The Master’s University granted time extension to finish 96 percent of campus expansionMai Nguyen Do January 11, 2019 0 COMMENTS
The Santa Clarita City Council voted 4-0 to approve The Master’s University’s request for a time extension on its plan to expand the university campus, giving the school another decade to finish the remaining 96 percent of construction.
TMU was initially slated to develop up to 240,000 square feet of new campus buildings by 2019. The plan includes a 0.64-mile extension of Dockweiler drive through the university property; the subdivision of university property to create new campus lots and single-family residential condominium units, the new MacArthur Chapel Building, two new two-story classroom buildings and the dedication of 21 acres of open space to the city. It also includes an increase in the maximum student population from 1,100 students to 1,700 students.
However, since 2009, the school has built approximately 9,200 square feet of new campus buildings, progressing through only four percent of its original plan.
The university is significantly behind in its plan to expand the campus. TMU requested a time extension, citing the recession, lack of funding sources and cost of infrastructure improvements as the primary reasons for the request.
Prior to the discussion on the proposed time extension, Councilmember Laurene Weste recused herself from the debate and vote, citing a conflict of interest given that her home is close to the university property. However, Weste did vote against the plan in 2009, according to city documents.
TMU’s land planning consultant, Dennis Hardgrave, briefly summarized the benefits the project provided to the local community, emphasizing the aesthetic improvements that have been made so far.
“I don’t think anyone would disagree with the fact that this master plan, which is a fairly hefty document for such a small campus, has resulted in a beautiful campus, one that’s completely different than it appeared 10 years ago, and the buildings that have been not only remodeled but the additions that have been done have created a great craftsman appearance,” Hardgrave said. “The hardscape, landscape and other improvements as well have been a real benefit not only to the function of the school, but also to the community.”
Some constituents, such as Newhall resident Joe Morelli, voiced their concerns about the environmental impact of the project and the lack of a new environmental impact report.
“To go 10 years more on the outdated report is not acceptable,” Morelli said. “Please have a new environmental impact assessment and statement done for the safety of my family and community.”
Local resident Katherine Zamora also called for a new environmental assessment to be completed before the project moves forward.
“A new EIR [environmental impact report] should be done,” Zamora said in a written statement to the council. “What is right is right, the law the law.”
However, since the request is for a time extension and not changes to the plan, a new environmental impact report is not required.
“There are no changes planned that would result in any new environmental impacts that haven’t already been reviewed as part of the original EIR,” Santa Clarita Senior Planner James Chow said in response to residents’ concerns about the environmental impact of the project.
The councilmembers present for the discussion were vocally in favor of the plan’s extension.
“I might remind anyone who’s interested that from 2009 to not that long ago, the country was in a severe recession,” Councilmember Bill Miranda said. “Very, very hard to raise money during that time, and so there is absolutely no hesitation on my part to grant this extension, especially when you think about how hard it was to get done what they’ve already gotten done during that time.”
Councilmember Bob Kellar echoed Miranda’s support of the project. “One of the building blocks of the Santa Clarita Valley has been our education system at every level,” Bob Kellar, who voted in favor of the original plan in 2009, said. “I gotta tell you, these folks work hard and they’ve been very successful at providing an outstanding product of highly educated young people that we have all been very proud of.”
The councilmembers then took to voting on the extension’s approval. All four voted to approve the plan’s extension.
Mai Nguyen Do is a Vietnamese American poet and researcher. She is a lifelong Santa Clarita resident and a College of the Canyons graduate. She is also the author of Ghosts Still Walking (2016) and Battlefield Blooming (2019). Find her on Twitter @DoNguyenMai.