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  • Sandy Smoley served on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors from 1972 to 1992 and was California's secretary of health and human services from 1995 to 1999. She is currently the president and CEO of the Sandy Smoley Group, a health care consulting company.

  • Randy Pench /

    Developer Ron Alvarado gazes at the grassy hills of the east county area where a 2,600-acre site could be built up. The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors will consider the plan again Tuesday, with a key consideration of whether to allow it to proceed without a university's commitment.

Viewpoints: Should county approve Cordova Hills? Yes, set-aside of a university site is important for the region

Published: Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 5E
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 - 8:34 pm

Decision-makers and regional planners should be salivating at the opportunity before them with the Cordova Hills master plan proposal. It is a good plan for our future. It is a plan that incorporates some of the most current and futuristic land planning concepts, and it is a plan that will help bring a sorely needed component of higher education to our region.

Serving as a member of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, I had the opportunity to make decisions on behalf of citizens that affected all of us. It was during my tenure that the county imposed a landmark "urban services boundary" line around the current and future urbanizing area of the county. This line was intended to avoid distant sprawl in our county and keep future development within a manageable area. The vision put forth by the Board of Supervisors back in 1992 was to adequately plan for the growth and prosperity of our region, to plan long-range municipal infrastructure, and to protect our region's agricultural heritage and operations.

Cordova Hills lies within that long-established urban services boundary. It is immediately adjacent to our region's newest city, Rancho Cordova, and within that city's "East Plan Area."

It will offer the ultimate in sustainable land planning, through more than 75 miles of walking and biking trails, an internal shuttle and external transit system that can efficiently whisk residents to the second largest employment center in the six-county region along Highway 50, and provide more than 500 acres of open space for the permanent avoidance and protection of the environment. Three new schools, more than 100 acres of active parkland and nearly 200 acres of passive recreational and other undeveloped land will be available to residents and the region for enjoyment, community gardens and open vista.

All of this will be at no cost to the county. In fact, at build out, the Cordova Hills plan will generate a $2 million surplus to the county.

The final icing on the cake is that the landowners have planned a 223-acre portion of the project as a campus center. They are working diligently to attract a credible user to which they will donate this land for a center of higher education. We need to have the land properly zoned and ready for this user, in order to attract a credible campus for the region.

With our region's struggle to provide sufficient higher education opportunities to our young people, we should be thoroughly and enthusiastically embracing this exceptionally well-thought-out plan.

As The Bee editorialized in May 2012, "more students are looking out of state to get an education. In our region, if the trend continues, it could lead to a brain drain of talent, since students who attend college out of state tend not to return to California" ("California risks drain of brains to other states"; editorials, May 9). Cordova Hills will help address that challenge.

As a county supervisor for two decades I saw many good land-use proposals come before me. The Cordova Hills proposal before the Board of Supervisors has received the unanimous approval from the Cosumnes Planning Advisory Council, the Cordova Planning Advisory Council and the Sacramento County Planning Commission. The plan has received the professional recommendation for approval by county staff that has been involved for nearly five years in the collaborative planning process. It is time for the county to step up and enthusiastically approve this well-thought-out, sustainable and much needed amenity for today and the future of our region.

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