The Folsom City Council will consider allowing more residential development and less commercial and other business construction in a plan to expand the city south of Highway 50.
The plan has already drawn criticism from some residents and water experts because it contemplates adding more than 10,000 homes during a drought in which residents are being forced to reduce water usage.
The proposed change that goes before the council Tuesday night would raise the number of housing units from 10,210 to 10,817. It would also reduce the amount of commercial and other business development by one-third, down to 302 acres.
Developer Bill Bunce said the changes are needed because of retail growth in Folsom since the plan was originally approved in 2011.
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“Importantly... the total water demand remains within the approved allotment for the overall plan area,” said Bunce, president of Westland Capital Partners.
The plan approved by the council calls for an allotment of 5,600 acre-feet of water a year for the growth area, in a city with rights to 34,000 acre-feet a year.
The proposed changes would increase estimated yearly water usage in the growth area from 5,430 acre-feet to 5,578 acre-feet, the city estimates.
Jennifer Lane, a member of the city’s Planning Commission, said the council should reject the changes.
“It’s a bad idea to be planning housing development in a drought. It’s crazy,” she said. “Folsom Lake is pretty much empty right now.”
Lane missed the Planning Commission vote on the proposed changes because she was attending a conference on sustainable development, she said. The commission voted 6-0 to recommend the council support the changes.
Mayor Andy Morin said he supports the changes. He said the city can meet the need for additional water.
“We already have the water,” he said. “It’s a matter of making sure we have the water in drier years.”
The city expects to meet the need for new residents, expected to reach almost 25,000 when the growth area is complete, by maintaining conservation policies currently in place, Morin said. Residents currently are restricted to watering lawns twice a week, for instance.
The city has no plans to try to buy additional water from other providers, he said. The city gets all of its water from Folsom Lake.
Ronald Stork, senior policy advocate at Friends of the River, said Folsom officials are making a bad bet on the development.
“There is a risk they are going to make their water supply problems worse,” said Stork, a longtime board member of the Sacramento Water Forum, which set area water policy years ago.