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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Shopping Center on Gilroy Farmland is Withdrawn

Vacaville Voters Turn in 10,000 Signatures for Urban Growth Boundary

February 2008 Greenbelt Alliance Newswire

Update: Victory for Gilroy Farmland
Victory in Gilroy! After months of gearing up to build a mega-mall on 660 acres of prime farmland east of Highway 101 in Gilroy, Westfield Corporation suddenly decided last week to withdraw all plans for development outside of the city limits, after strong opposition by Greenbelt Alliance, SOS Gilroy, and other advocates. Westfield’s sudden change of plans prompted Gilroy officials to cancel the East Gilroy Specific Plan task force that they were about to convene. Instead of paving over working farms and floodplains, Westfield will look to the old Wal-Mart site and other land within city limits to build a retail center.

Update: 10,000 Signatures for Vacaville Growth Boundary
On February 11, Greenbelt Alliance and its allies in the City of Vacaville submitted more than 10,000 signatures in support of an initiative establishing a growth boundary around Vacaville, almost three times the amount of signatures required to qualify for the ballot. This line would define where new development should and should not occur over the next 20 years and would protect the scenic hills and working farms around the city. Any change to the boundary would require a vote of the people of Vacaville. Fairfield and Benicia passed similar boundaries in 2003.
Once the signatures are verified by the city clerk, the Vacaville City Council will review the initiative in early March.


January 15, 2008
A sign for a line
Petitioners want urban growth limit

By Jennifer Gentile

Vacaville residents continue to add signatures to a new petition which began circulating this month and calls for creation of an urban limit line around the city. Residents may see this petition while running their daily errands, such as visiting the supermarket or a local department store." We have roughly a dozen people on the street right now," said Tom Koch, a consultant to the committee that is working to collect signatures on the initiative. Despite a slow start on Jan. 5 because of the weather, Koch said that "so far, it's going really well. People seem to be very responsive to the idea. The collection will go on for some time."

The petition is part of a settlement agreement among the city, Lagoon Valley developer Triad Communities and the Greenbelt Alliance.The Alliance filed suit in 2004 over the Lagoon Valley Project - a 1,000-home development featuring a golf course and an office village. The Alliance dropped its suit, and in turn, Triad agreed to scale back the number of homes to be built in the project. The agreement also called for a petition to be circulated concerning an urban-limit boundary.According to City Planner Maureen Carson, "The petition would actually add policy to the city general plan that would put a 20-year urban growth boundary in place." The initiative states that once the boundary is in place, "the city cannot amend the Vacaville General Plan designations to allow uses other than agricultural, park or open space uses."Exhibit A of the initiative contains a map indicating the growth boundary would not include some areas now within current city limits, largely to the east and west.With limited exceptions, it says, only local voters could amend the boundary.With other challenges to the Lagoon Valley project having failed in court recently, the petition was able to move forward. In November, the California Supreme Court declined to hear a case against the Triad development project brought by Friends of Lagoon Valley, a grassroots group opposed to development in the valley. Citing concerns about flooding, traffic and other impacts, Friends had filed its lawsuit in 2005 to stop the development.

One proponent of the urban boundary idea is Vacaville Chamber of Commerce President Gary Tatum. He said he endorses it, not as chamber president, but as a private citizen." Within that limit line, there'll be ample room for growth," Tatum said. "It's not a no-growth initiative."

Amanda Brown-Stevens, field director with the Greenbelt Alliance, called the boundary "an important element of good planning."" I'm very excited this is moving forward," she said. "I think it's a much-needed policy."According to City Clerk Michelle Thornbrugh, the circulators have 180 days to gather a sufficient number of signatures. By elections code, that means 10 percent of the last roster of registered voters, or approximately 3,600 residents, must sign.

Accounting for some percentage of invalid signatures, Koch said, "If we collect about 5,000 unverified (signatures), that should translate into enough to meet the legal requirement."The signatures will be submitted to the City Council, which has the option of either adopting the initiative without changes or putting the matter before voters. Depending on how long it takes to meet the requirement, the matter could go to voters in June or November.

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