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Regional panel approves proposal to expand Elk Grove urban boundary

Wilton Rancheria wants to build Sacramento County’s first tribal casino on property near these unfinished structures from an ill-fated mall project in Elk Grove.
Wilton Rancheria wants to build Sacramento County’s first tribal casino on property near these unfinished structures from an ill-fated mall project in Elk Grove. mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

A controversial proposal that could allow the city of Elk Grove to extend its southern boundary was narrowly approved by a regional planning panel Wednesday night.

Following a nearly four-hour hearing, the Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission voted 4-3 to approve a request by landowners to expand the city’s sphere of influence by more than 1,100 acres to the south near Highway 99 and Kammerer Road.

Land within a city’s sphere of influence is typically targeted for future annexation. The landowners argued that adding the 1,156 acres just outside the county’s urban growth boundary would allow the city of Elk Grove, as well as the Sacramento Area Sewer District and the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District, to undertake studies and planning necessary for development.

Commissioner Sue Frost, a member the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, said her decision to support the proposal came down to the issue of local control. Placing the land within the city’s sphere of influence will allow Elk Grove residents to plan for its future, she said.

Commissioner Gay Jones, a Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District director, argued that expanding the sphere of influence would promote urban sprawl, which LAFCO is supposed to prevent.

The land is south of Kammerer Road, which is slated to become part of the Capital Southeast Connector, a 34-mile-long expressway extending from Interstate 5 in Elk Grove to Highway 50 in El Dorado Hills. The proximity to the planned expressway makes the area a prime site for an employment center as well as much needed housing, the proponents argued.

Chris Noren, government affairs director for the North State Building Industry Association, said the Sacramento region faces “a giant housing shortage.” Unless the city of Elk Grove can expand its boundaries, he said, it will face pressure to rezone land intended for business and industrial use to residential use.

The project received support during the hearing from members of the real estate industry as well as several Elk Grove residents who said they wanted to make sure housing would be available for their children in years to come.

Representatives of several environmental groups, including ECOS, Habitat 2020 and the Sierra Club, spoke in opposition to the proposal, characterizing extension of the sphere of influence as urban sprawl. They argued that Elk Grove has approximately 1,800 acres available for development within its current boundaries.

Expanding urban uses into the area south of Kammerer Road would threaten nearby wildlife preserves, they said, by destroying farmlands that are foraging sites for migratory birds. They also raised concerns about the effects on groundwater in the area.

Bill Bird, executive director of the Sacramento County Farm Bureau, said expanding the sphere of influence would send an unfavorable message to nearby farmers. When urban development encroaches on agricultural areas, he said, it can make it impossible for nearby agricultural operations to continue. When you drive out agriculture, he said, you drive out jobs.

Commissioner Ron Greenwood, a member of the Carmichael Water District board of directors, recalled that LAFCO had rejected the city of Elk Grove’s request in 2013 to expand its sphere of influence by 8,000, acres into areas that included lands in the current proposal. At the time, he said, LAFCO suggested a compromise. This proposal for a smaller acreage is in keeping with that suggestion, he said.

Greenwood, Frost, and Commissioners Susan Peters and Patrick Hume supported the proposal.

Joining Jones in voting against it were commissioners Angelique Ashby and Jack Harrison.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy

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