A proposed 2,700-acre development project on the eastern fringe of Sacramento County does not comply with the region's transportation plan, according to a report released this week.
That plan barely meets state requirements for limiting greenhouse gas emissions, and approval of Cordova Hills could "make it challenging" to meet a 2035 target, Mike McKeever of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments said in a letter to county supervisors.
Failing to meet those requirements could threaten the county's eligibility for federal and state transportation funds, officials said.
Ron Alvarado, one of the project's principal developers, said the report concedes that its growth projections are uncertain. He said the project would serve a growing employment corridor along U.S. 50 in Rancho Cordova.
While McKeever acknowledges the uncertainty of some predictions, the project's expected impact is fairly certain, he said. "The project would be problematic because of the vehicle miles traveled and more greenhouse gases," he said.
SACOG reviewed the project at the request of Supervisor Phil Serna, who noted that developers failed to deliver on a promise to secure a university at Cordova Hills.
What the SACOG report might mean for the project's approval is not clear.
Supervisors, who expect to vote on Cordova Hills on Tuesday, say they're still considering the report and how they might vote on the project.
Still, the report raises an interesting question: How can supervisors who voted for the region's transportation plan now vote for a project that goes against it?
Supervisors Phil Serna, Susan Peters and Roberta MacGlashan, who represent the county on the SACOG board, voted in favor of the transportation plan in April 2011.
The SACOG board made up of representatives from six counties and 22 cities unanimously endorsed the "Metropolitan Transportation Plan/ Sustainable Communities Strategy," which guides how the region spends federal, state and local transportation funding.
The plan "accelerates opportunities for saving money and accelerating economic development for business in our region," said then-SACOG board chairwoman Peters, according to a news release last year. The plan also sets out how the region will meet greenhouse gas emissions limits set by the California Air Resources Board under a 2008 law, Senate Bill 375.
Serna said the county might jeopardize transportation funds from the state and federal governments if it approves Cordova Hills. "We can't make this decision in a vacuum," he said. "If we're going to be held to account for SB 375, we need to know that."
The board agreed to delay a vote on Cordova Hills in December when Serna said he wanted SACOG to examine the project because a university once a centerpiece of the project hadn't been secured.
Serna said that means a change in transportation to and from the project. A university would have provided employment and schooling to Cordova Hills residents, cutting down on travel to employment centers.
The SACOG report found that the project would create problems for state pollution requirements with or without a university, although it would create more without one.
SACOG used computer modeling to estimate greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle miles traveled as a result of traffic from Cordova Hills.
The report also questions the need for the project. By 2035, housing supply in the region is expected to exceed demand by 200,000 units, SACOG estimates.
The project is expected to have 8,700 housing units, 75 miles of trails as well as retail services and commercial and office space. Alvarado said he's committed to finding a private university for 6,000-plus students.