Sacramento County supervisors postponed a much-anticipated decision Wednesday night on whether to approve the controversial Cordova Hills project just outside the county's urban development area.
More than two dozen people signed up to express their concerns with the 2,700-acre project east of Rancho Cordova, warning it would produce sprawl and harm the environment.
"I think this is growth-inducing," said Rob Burness of the Environmental Council of Sacramento.
"Our recommendation: We ask you not to move forward and give land speculators the chance to make millions on this decision."
The delay in a decision until Jan. 29 came after Supervisor Phil Serna proposed that the development be analyzed for its effects on the area's eligibility for transportation funding and on its ability to meet smart growth and sustainable community strategies both with and without a university. The county staff is expected to work with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments to review the possibilities.
So far, planning has focused on the concept that a university will be part of Cordova Hills, which received initial county approval in 2008.
The area is designed to house more than 20,000 people, and include 75 miles of trails as well as retail services, commercial and office space and a private university for 6,000-plus students. But the university initially proposed for the site pulled out, and critics have voiced doubts that any university is likely.
Larry Greene, executive director of the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, said his agency has an agreement with the county to strengthen the site's air quality plan without a campus. If a university does come to Cordova Hills, Greene said in an interview, measures such as more efficient building requirements and Energy Star roofing materials still will be in place and residents will enjoy the added benefit of fewer miles driven.
"Having the university as a job center means something like 10 to 11 percent of the trips" are tied to the university, he said.
The developer, Conwy LLC, has agreed to turn over the 223 acres of land set aside for the university campus to the county if it does not land a university in 30 years.
Ron Alvarado, a partner at Conwy, bridled at a suggestion that his company should finance an analysis of the project without a university.
"I would prefer not to pay for an analysis of a project that I am not proposing," Alvarado told supervisors, noting that his project calls for a university.