|Nikki Carpenter speaks against Elk Grove's SOI.|
In meetings that normally draw little public interest, the Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) got a earful from Elk Grove residents and other stakeholders such as Friends of the Swainson Hawk, the Cosumnes River Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Council of Sacramento as they all spoke in opposition to the City of Elk Grove's Sphere of Influence (SOI) at their monthly meeting in Sacramento tonight.
As part of Elk Grove's effort to annex several thousand acres located just south of the city outside of the urban services boundary, LAFCO heard an initial staff report on the draft environmental impact report (EIR) submitted by the city at Wednesday night's meeting. After hearing an explanation of the SOI process and the draft EIR, LAFCO Executive Director Peter Brundage and his assistant Donald Lockhart were peppered with several queries from LAFCO Commissioner Christopher Tooker about the city's application.
Among other things Tooker was particularly interested in the language of the report noting several clarifications and omissions.
"it is very important that we inform the public," Tooker said of the city's initial environmental impact report. "It does not provide that clarity."
Tooker went on to criticize several aspects of the report such as lack of information on water and sewage services and a pro-SOI bias. Tooker said he felt the report was written to give the appearance that LAFCO is supporting the city's application.
After Tooker's criticism, the commission heard public comments from 15 speakers, who with the exception of two, were all opposed to the application.
Typical of the speakers opposing the SOI were Elk Grove resident Nikki Carpenter who seized on the point made earlier in the meeting that Elk Grove is a so-called contract city. As a contract city, Elk Grove has hired several private enterprises to perform vital city functions, such as the administration of the planning department.
Carpenter said that the city's planing department, which is administered by Pacific Municipal Consultants, is acting in their own self-interest. "These are paid developers running the city," Carpenter said.
Sean Wirth, an executive committee member of the Environmental Council of Sacramento skewered the city for it's contradictory rationale in the SOI. Wirth pointed out that the city is seeking to expand because it claims a scarcity of undeveloped land within city limits, but noted they claim there is an abundance of water for the expansion.
Wirth also noted problems with the Consumnes Rive habitat conservation plan (HCP). "It is not consistent with the HCP," he added.
Appearing on behalf of Elk Grove was planning director Taro Echiburu who said that it was not required for the city to address several items items such as water supply until the city actually starts the annexation process.
One person speaking in favor of the city's expansion was Pat Mahon who said as family farmers, she and several other property owners along Grantline Road have been good land steward's. "Our group is supportive of the SOI," she concluded.
Rebutting Mahon was Elk Grove resident Suzane Pecci who noted the SOI in large part is being pushed by these same large landowners in the SOI area. "These 'ties to the land' shouldn't dictate the future of the region," she said.
The draft EIR will be made available on the LAFCO site and open for a 30-day comment period.