Wednesday, March 26, 2008

City Sets 20-Year Urban Growth Limit

City Sets 20-Year Urban Growth Limit
By Jennifer Gentile
Article Launched: 03/26/2008

Opting not to postpone a decision or call for an election, the City Council on Tuesday night put a growth boundary into effect around Vacaville.

The boundary, which the council approved unanimously, prohibits rezoning of the land outside the urban limit for uses other than agriculture or open space for 20 years. The initiative was part of a 2004 settlement agreement among the city, Triad Communities and the Greenbelt Alliance over development plans in the lower Lagoon Valley.

A growth boundary petition began circulating in January, and supporters collected more than 11,000 signatures. The county registrar of voters office determined that more than 8,400 of these were valid - which is more than twice the number required to get the measure on the ballot.

The council had three options when it met Tuesday - approve the boundary outright, send the matter to local voters or ask staff to prepare a report containing additional information. Staff recommended approval - explaining that the land inside the urban limit line is enough to meet the city's residential and economic needs for the next two decades.

With the exception of one resident, who favored an election, speakers from the public urged the council to take action. Shirley Swan, administrator at First Baptist Church, said she attended the meeting "to express my support and that of an overwhelming majority of our congregation."

"We believe the initiative is a wise and balanced policy that allows growth," she said, "while protecting our quality of life and the things we all treasure about Vacaville."

Amanda Brown-Stevens, field director for the Greenbelt Alliance, pointed out that more Vacaville residents signed the petition than voted in the last election.

"The response to the signature-gathering effort was overwhelming," she said, "and confirms the strong and widespread support for the initiative, which will help Vacaville grow in a way that preserves working farms and open space" as well as "vibrant economic growth."

Council members were also impressed by the number of signatures gathered and agreed that approving the limit line was the wisest option.

"(It) makes a lot of sense," said Councilman Curtis Hunt, "and promotes stability in our planning process."

Vice Mayor Chuck Dimmick said the line leaves adequate potential for both jobs and housing.

"If we send it back to voters, I'm afraid Lagoon Valley becomes an issue again," he said. "To go back and rehash that battle is counterproductive."

The limit line also had support from Councilwoman Pauline Clancy, who called it "a good boundary."

"It's good for Vacaville," she said. "I think the number of signatures indicates (how) the election would turn out without the expense."

In other business, the council approved a rate adjustment for local taxi service, which would raise the rate from .25 cents per 1/7 of a mile to .25 per 1/10 of a mile. Rates for local cabs have not been increased since 2004.

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