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Environmentalists sue to stop expansion near Highway 99

Environmentalists are suing to stop Elk Grove from developing south of Kammerer Road, shown here just west of Highway 99.
Environmentalists are suing to stop Elk Grove from developing south of Kammerer Road, shown here just west of Highway 99.

A long-standing battle between Elk Grove growth advocates and environmentalists has spilled into court.

The Environmental Council of Sacramento and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit with others in Sacramento Superior Court last week challenging a county decision to allow the city of Elk Grove to expand onto 1,156 acres of farmland west of Highway 99 and south of Kammerer Road.

City officials have their eye on that site as land they can use to entice companies to bring jobs to the south county. Environmentalists though, say the city has plenty of other land to build houses and businesses.

The Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission agency voted earlier this year to make the area south of Kammerer Road part of the city's "sphere of influence." That represents a key formal step toward allowing the city to annex the land and build on it.

The environmental groups contend the commission erred during that process by relying on faulty information about Elk Grove's already available land for development inside current city limits. It also challenges information cited about the city's water availability, and contends the commission failed to properly consider the negative impacts of building on farmland.

"My clients represent the public interest in curbing sprawl and preserving farmland in this region," attorney Don Mooney said in a press statement issued this week by ECOS and the Sierra Club.

Sierra Club spokesman Sean Wirth said Sandhill cranes, Swainson's hawks and migratory birds forage in that area. As other areas of south county develop, "that area could be one of the most important for those species," he said.

Sacramento County Farm Bureau executive Bill Bird also has spoken out against the annexation, saying it could make it impossible for nearby farmers to continue operations.

The city's current southern boundary runs along Kammerer Road. The road also delineates the county's Urban Services Boundary line. County officials set that boundary to designate where they expect development to occupy ur and not occur. The boundary can change, however, if a city wins approval to expand beyond the line.

Elk Grove city officials say they want the area south of Kammerer to be a landing spot for businesses to help fix the city's jobs-housing imbalance. Currently, many city residents commute elsewhere for work, mainly downtown Sacramento and Rancho Cordova.

"We are doing what we can to position ourselves to be as attractive and as amenable as possible," City Councilman Patrick Hume said. "We have designated that as where we want to grow our jobs base."

Hume said city officials, however, do not have any specific plans yet for how the initial 1,156 acres might be developed.

Ultimately, city officials want to widen and extend Kammerer Road from Highway 99 to Interstate 5, and to develop much of the area along it.

Some new home subdivisions already are under construction north of Kammerer near Highway 99. Elk Grove city officials say they also hope to get redevelopment started this year at the mothballed outlet mall site north of Kammerer Road. That freeway-side project has sat idle for a decade, since a previous builder stopped work during the recession.