Urban Growth Boundaries create battles in Cloverdale

Dennis Rosatti, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
In 2010, the City of Cloverdale was the final city in Sonoma County to pass an Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). Environmental and smart growth advocates, as well as dedicated local residents spent years educating the public and governmental leaders of Cloverdale about the benefits of a UGB to prevent sprawl, encourage “in-fill” and downtown development, and protect the quality of life for local residents into the future. Unfortunately, when it came time to place the measure before voters, the City Council insisted on including three large land “islands,” referred to as Exception Areas in official planning documents, into the Southern planning area of the UGB. These Exception Areas include an Industrial Area, part of the Raines Creek Water District, and the historic Swiss-Italian Colony of Asti. Voters ultimately passed the measure, setting up a battle sure to come in the future.
The time for that fight has come.
The Asti area is four miles from the existing city boundary. At risk is the hillside and vineyard land in between. Recently, the City of Cloverdale applied for an updated Sphere of Influence (SOI) at the Sonoma County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). From the LAFCO website, “A Sphere of Influence is defined as the probable physical boundary and service area of a local agency. Territory must be within a city or district’s sphere of influence to be considered for annexation to that city or district.” LAFCO goes on to say that SOI’s, “Are intended to discourage urban sprawl and the premature conversion of agricultural and open space lands.” This stated philosophy clearly goes against the proposal to add land islands far removed from the existing boundary to the City SOI.
The problems with the proposed Cloverdale Sphere of Influence are many. First, the land between the islands could be developed at the expiration of the UGB in 2030, or sooner if the city or a developer were able to convince voters to amend the UGB. This would be a massive sprawl South of the existing town. Second, allowing islands of the city in the county area takes away the local county residents ability to have equal influence in local government. County residents living in the Asti area/Alexander Valley are unable to vote for the Cloverdale City Council, thus removing their power of democratic choice.
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