Soapbox

Sacramento County should hold the line on Natomas growth

A heron takes off in the Natomas Basin wetlands last month. An environmental group opposes a proposal to expand the urban boundary for development in the area.
A heron takes off in the Natomas Basin wetlands last month. An environmental group opposes a proposal to expand the urban boundary for development in the area. rbenton@sacbee.com

The push by regional land speculators to expand ever outward at Sacramento’s urban fringe is relentless.

Two years ago, the Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission wisely turned down Elk Grove’s overreaching request to expand its city limits by 7,800 acres beyond the long-term boundary to urban growth. Already there is a new application to expand Elk Grove southward by 1,500 acres.

Now, the county Board of Supervisors is considering moving forward with detailed, speculator-paid studies to move the urban boundary in Natomas north to the Sutter County line to accommodate what amounts to a new city of 55,000 people on 5,500 acres.

As supervisors hold a workshop on Wednesday, they should consider the serious issues at stake.

There is already plenty of vacant land in Natomas open to development, and a huge amount of land either approved for development or in the planning stages within the county’s urban services boundary.

The proposal is not consistent with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments’ recently adopted transportation plan, or the Sacramento Air Quality Management District’s plan.

The area is inside the Natomas flood basin and presents significant drainage challenges and costs. More development within the Natomas basin conflicts with commitments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to keep remaining land undeveloped.

The proposal is not even consistent with the county’s own General Plan. But there is a loophole: Supervisors can expand the urban services boundary with a four-fifths vote, regardless of the policy inconsistencies, if they find that the expansion would provide “extraordinary environmental, social or economic benefits and opportunities.”

Enter the Trojan horse plan. In December, Supervisor Phil Serna asked the landowners to consider a regional hospital in their proposal. Ose Properties has just submitted an assessment that predictably concludes that the Natomas region could support a health facility.

Received just one week before Wednesday’s workshop, there has been no time to vet the proposal. Nor has county staff given serious consideration to the threshold development issues. At the very minimum, county supervisors should pause and undertake a serious and unbiased review.

From a regional perspective, there is every reason for supervisors to do the sensible thing and shelve this proposal. Representing the largest population of any government in the area, they need to set the example for responsible growth.

Rob Burness is co-chairman of the Habitat 2020 Committee of the Environmental Council of Sacramento. He can be contacted at rmburness@comcast.net.

  Comments