Elk Grove’s bid to expand its boundaries by 30 percent was shot down by a local planning agency late Wednesday.
The Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission voted 5-2 against the city’s application to expand its planning area by 8,000 acres to the south. The commission also turned down a less expansive, compromise proposal, offered by Commission Executive Director Peter Brundage, that would have expanded the planning area by 4,000 acres.
The city head already cut its original growth plan by almost one half, since it was originally submitted to LAFCO more than five years ago.
City officials said they need the area to plan for future growth, and attract employers to an area that has far more residents than jobs. But residents, environmentalists and farmers said the plan will create sprawl, hurt endangered areas and convert valuable farmland into tract housing.
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Approval of the city’s sphere of influence would not have meant the city could approve development there. The city would have had to further petition LAFCO to annex the area before approving development and providing service there.
Commissioners Jimmie Yee and Susan Peters, also county supervisors, voted in favor of Elk Grove’s proposal. Yee said it provided the only opportunity for the city to grow, as it is hemmed in by environmental issues in other directions.
But other commissioners said they were concerned about the impact the plan would have on the area south of Bilby, Kammerer and Grant Line roads and near the Franklin-Laguna community. In particular, commissioners were worried about the loss of farmland.
“This is active ag land,” said Commissioner Gay Jones, noting that the area produces $14 million worth of commodities annually. “This is not a vacuum.”
Officials at the Sacramento County Farm Bureau spoke against the plan, saying it would lead farmers to sell land for development, and take active farms out of production many years before any development was approved to replace them.
Even though the issue has received extensive debate over the years, Wednesday night’s hearing lasted more than five hours. While some residents and city officials spoke in favor of the expansion, most of the night’s speakers were in opposition.
“We don’t need more urban sprawl,” said Elk Grove resident Nikki Carpenter.
Former Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo raised the same complaint to the commission: That the expansion would lead to continued, excessive suburbanization or sprawl. She said the plan would hurt the region’s plan for growth, called the Blueprint and approved by another regional planning agency several years ago.
Environmentalists at the hearing said they were concerned about the effect the expansion would have on the South Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan. Federal, state and local officials have been working on a plan to to protect environmentally sensitive areas in the southern part of the county.
The city has argued that it is running out of available land – particularly large parcels to attract major employers – and plans to expand in this area. But commissioners said they were not convinced that the city doesn’t have enough available land to last for a while.