Tuesday, October 28, 2003

New town eyed for Yolo county

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

New town eyed for county

By Elisabeth Sherwin/Enterprise staff writer

More than 300 people attended a workshop Monday evening to help plan the future of a new and much more crowded Yolo County. And at least one group decided that a new city was the way to plan.

The workshop, at the Veterans' Memorial Center in Davis, was put on by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and Valley Vision.

Yolo County Supervisor Helen Thomson of Davis welcomed the crowd of politicians, planners, city and county staff, and county residents to the SACOG Blueprint project.

"By the year 2050, the county could grow to 580,000 population if we do nothing," she said. "We have the choice about how growth will affect (us)."

Yolo County's population stands at about 180,000. By 2050, not only will there be more people, but they will be older. In 50 years, there will be more senior citizens than children in the six-county area, officials forecast.

Thomson, a member of the SACOG board of directors, said three general regional land use alternatives would be brought to the six-county regional association in April.

The task before the group on Monday night was to select and adapt one of four countywide growth scenarios and forward the data on to SACOG computer modelers.

Each table at the Vets' Center was covered with maps forecasting land use, growth patterns, residential build-out, air quality and more. Participants -- representative of the entire county -- were asked to select a growth scenario that most closely matched what they wanted.

SACOG has held 31 workshops bringing together 1,600 participants from throughout the six-county area, including workshops in all four of Yolo County's cities.

Former Supervisor Tom Stallard described the urgency underlying the task of smart planning.

"People never used to talk about leaving California," he said. "But now people talk about where they're going when they retire. That's sad."

SACOG is primarily an association formed to oversee spending of federal transportation dollars. But after forecasting new transportation plans to 2025, SACOG planners realized that congestion still grew worse by 50 percent. Clearly, land and transportation planning had to be more closely aligned.

SACOG's Mike McKeever said Yolo County has a good reputation in the six-county area as a smart-growth model. Development has been confined to the county's four major cities, a greenbelt has been identified to preserve ag land between Davis and Woodland, and walking and biking is emphasized.

But challenges remain. Yolo County must take its fair share of growth, and the question is: Where will that go? Some scenarios have West Sacramento taking 60 percent of the new growth.

Participants at each table then got to work, identifying general land use plans that they could live with and making adjustments as needed.

At one table, decisions were made quickly and with consensus.

Participants from West Sacramento, Davis, Woodland and Zamora liked the planning scenario that called for a high concentration of growth in the cities, preserved ag land to the greatest extent possible, and accepted Yolo's share of new growth.

However, they decided that new growth should be within a new city.

"Growth is coming and it has to go somewhere," Stallard said. "Using a new town as a growth absorber has merit," he added.

"I agree," said Matt Rexroad, vice mayor of Woodland. Kelle Reich of Zamora and Marilyn Moyle of Davis also agreed.

The new town of 45,000 people could be built north of Woodland close to the intersection of Interstates 505 and 5. The town would be built on grazing land; no prime ag land would be sacrificed.

The compact town would be designed with smart growth principles in mind, mixing land use and housing choices and encouraging walking, biking and public transportation.

"It will be a brand-new, creative town," Rexroad said. "We'll start new and make it transportation-friendly."

The new town would have a commercial, industrial and residential mix.

With a few more adjustments, the group had its plan finished. But the adjustments were critical and consisted of asking UC Davis to follow smart growth principles in the future, including a commitment to infill, providing bike lanes between Davis and Woodland, and providing one or more bridges to move traffic from Yolo County east to Sacramento.

On paper, all problems were solved.

The results of the workshop will be forwarded to SACOG to be presented at the April workshop.

mailto: Elisabeth Sherwin at gizmo@dcn.org

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