At its first meeting of the New Year, the Sebastopol City Council unanimously decided to renew its voter-approved urban growth boundary (UGB) before it expires at the end of 2016, but residents will have to help make it happen.
Mayor Sarah Glade Gurney and the City Council are strongly in favor of renewing the UGB with minor, if any, changes. However, due to City timelines, the residents of Sebastopol will need to step in and collect signatures to place a citizen’s initiative to renew the UGB on the November 2016 ballot. Sebastopol voters were among the first to adopt a 20-year UGB to protect farmland and open space beyond its borders from sprawl development.
Greenbelt Alliance is partnering with Sebastopol’s civic leaders and local organizers to finalize and pass a new urban growth boundary measure that will promote smart growth, affordable housing, and prevent sprawl for another 20 years or more.
While all nine cities and the County of Sonoma are committed to city-centered growth, development pressures are increasing around the edges of towns and communities as the economy grows. Other Sonoma cities where urban growth boundaries are expiring soon include Windsor in 2017 and Cotati in 2018. The cities of Santa Rosa, Petaluma, and Healdsburg have already renewed and extended their voter-approved UGBs for 20 years or longer.
Allowing the expiration of voter protections for any UGB opens the door to development beyond the growth boundaries with a simple majority vote of the City Council instead of a vote of the people. Additionally, if voter protections for a city’s UGB expire, then voter protections for community separators in adjacent county lands would also expire, according to the existing county ordinance. County supervisors could then change the use or zoning of community separators with a simple majority vote as well.
At the same early January meeting, the Sebastopol City Council also took action to protect community separators by sending a letter to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors requesting renewal and additional designations, in response to a Greenbelt Alliance request.
The first draft of the new Sebastopol UGB ballot measure will be reviewed on February 16 at the City Council meeting (details here). Greenbelt Alliance will be there and urges you to join us if you live in or around Sebastopol.
We also need volunteers from Sebastopol and across Sonoma County to help gather signatures after the ballot language is finalized this spring. You don’t need to live in Sebastopol to help.
If you can spend a morning or afternoon gathering signatures in scenic Sebastopol this spring, please contact Teri Shore at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: harminder dhesi via Flickr