A controversial proposal that could let Elk Grove spread outside its current city limits goes before a regional planning group Wednesday.
The plan, put forward by landowners and opposed by environmentalists, would expand the city’s sphere of influence by more than 1,100 acres to the south near Highway 99 and Kammerer Road.
If approved by the Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission, the expansion would indicate a probable new limit for Elk Grove’s urban growth.
The land sits just outside of the county’s urban growth boundary and across Kammerer Road from a planned Indian casino and outlet mall. Including the acreage within city limits could greatly increase its value.
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Martin Feletto, a developer and one of a number of landowners, said the real value of the 1,156 acres is that it faces the anticipated route of a multi-lane highway between El Dorado Hills and Interstate 5.
“We have over 2 miles of frontage on that,” Feletto said, adding that the property would take “many, many, many years of planning” before it could be built upon.
Donald Lockhart, LAFCO’s executive officer, recommended in his report to commissioners that they approve the proposal as a potential means to make room for more homes in the midst of a state housing crisis. Elk Grove expects to receive 46,000 more residents in coming years, he said.
Lockhart also said annexing the land could allow Elk Grove to have a large parcel available for economic development. The roughly 1,800 acres of vacant land currently available for development in the city is mostly broken up into smaller lots.
“Because of the fragmented nature, it’s hard to get a big user to give the city a chance,” Lockhart said. “This could give the city a … blank slate to put together a master plan for economic development.”
Opponents, however, argue Elk Grove has ample room for growth within its current boundaries, including large undeveloped areas. (One expansive open area was offered unsuccessfully as a possible site for Amazon’s planned second headquarters.) They object to extending the city’s sphere of influence into farmland and wildlife habitat.
“Sacramento County has polices going back to 1993 saying, ‘We need to protect farmland. We need to have compact growth. We need to avoid urban sprawl. We don’t want to lose agriculture needlessly,” said Judith Lamare, president of Friends of the Swainson’s Hawk, a regional environmental group.
“You don’t want to cross the (urban services boundary) and build on farmland before you’ve exhausted opportunities to grow inside” existing city limits, she said.
A plan put forward by the city to expand its footprint by thousands of acres of was rejected by LAFCO commissioners in 2013, she noted.
Lockhart said the decision before the LAFCO commissioners Wednesday is only a “threshold first step” that would allow for large-scale infrastructure planning, such as for sewer service and water supply lines.
Commissioners would still have to approve any city bid to annex the land, he said. Elk Grove city leaders would then have oversight of zoning and development.
Even if commissioners approve the plan Wednesday, “there would be no physical change in the environment,” Lockhart said. “There would be no development without an annexation.”