Editorial: A foul smell will waft over big Cordova Hills development

Published: Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 6E

Last Sunday, The Bee's editorial board made it clear that we don't much like Cordova Hills, the proposed development just outside the city of Rancho Cordova in unincorporated Sacramento County.

Despite proponents' claims of smart growth, Cordova Hills reeks of dumb growth and of classic leapfrog development that will inevitably put stress on finite environmental and governmental resources.

Over the objections of their planning staff, Sacramento County supervisors in 2008 gave Cordova Hills a tentative green light because developers said a university would be built on the site. The faint hope of a university has evaporated. But the board still seems intent on approving entitlements for the project next month.

Before they vote, supervisors should thoroughly vet one of the big problems with Cordova Hills that has gotten scant attention – garbage. By garbage we mean the county dump, Kiefer Landfill, a state-of-the-art facility in which the county has invested millions in the past decade. Kiefer sits on the southwest border of the proposed Cordova Hills site. The dump receives close to 6,000 tons of garbage per day. That is expected to double by 2035.

In their draft environmental impact report Cordova Hills' developers claim that "the distance of the project from the landfill renders the impact of lights from Kiefer's operations insignificant." The developers also claim that the landfill's gas extraction system will reduce the potency and density of landfill odors to "less than significant" levels.

The Sacramento County Environmental Management Department disagrees. Its report to Sacramento County states that the landfill's operations will eventually expand, moving closer to the project site. Kiefer's maximum permitted elevation, 325 feet, and more lighting required for expanded operations, will increase Kiefer's visibility.

As the size of the dump grows, so will the landfill's odors, the review concluded. The supervisors ought to read that analysis. In short, Cordova Hills homeowners can expect to see a mountain of garbage lit up at night and to smell it.

To deal with the landfill issue raised by the county, developers have promised to provide disclosures to potential buyers in Cordova Hills. That won't solve the problem.

Disclosures will not prevent inevitable complaints that will come when people experience the sight and smells of a dump in their neighborhood. If they approve Cordova Hills, supervisors will create an obvious conflict and put the county's sizable investment in Kiefer Landfill, a valuable public asset, at unnecessary risk. So why do it?

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