Editorial: Vital Lands

Byline

 

Cloverdale should not miss chance to address growth boundary

Environmental groups and political leaders from around the Bay Area on Tuesday unveiled what could be called a master plan for regional preservation efforts.

Led by the Bay Area Open Space Council, Greenbelt Alliance and the Association of Bay Area Governments, the report, “Golden Lands, Golden Opportunity,” is an examination of all that has been accomplished — and all that still needs to be done — in the protection of open space and agricultural lands in the nine Bay Area counties.

The research showcases the network of open space that exists and identifies vital landscapes that still need protecting and government policies that need adopting. (To see a copy, go to www.golden-lands.org.)

Decision-makers at all levels should take notice. The report notes, for example, that Sonoma County’s diverse landscapes “are remarkably well preserved,” thanks largely to the taxpayer-supported Open Space District and the adoption of urban growth boundaries around eight of the nine incorporated cities. But many threats still remain. So do opportunities.

One such opportunity will arise tonight when the Cloverdale Planning Commission weighs in on the city’s general plan, last updated in 1993.

Since 2000, Cloverdale has been the only Sonoma County city without a voter-approved development limit. That’s not to say Cloverdale has been silent on the issue. Creating such a boundary has been in the works for years, and city leaders now appear to be unified on the idea of going to voters with a ballot measure sometime next year. The main unresolved issue is where exactly that boundary will go. But the draft general plan as it stands makes only general reference to the urban growth boundary and lacks wording concerning many of the controls that the city hopes to achieve through the initiative.

Granted, development pressures have diminished for the time being. The odds of any developer coming forward with plans for a major project in an area beyond Cloverdale’s city limits are long.

Nevertheless, a general plan update is a prime opportunity for a community to spell out its vision for its future and the rules for how it intends to grow — and not grow. Groups including the Cloverdale Urban Growth Boundary Committee and Greenbelt Alliance are encouraging Cloverdale officials to add the initiative language to the general plan. City officials say it could drag out the general plan process longer. Given the importance of the issue, it would be worth the wait.

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