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Annex plans under fire

City nearing approval for more expansion
By: Laura Newell Telegraph staff writer
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Critics are voicing concerns over the city’s plans to annex the area South of Highway 50. Last week the city held a study session for the Draft Environmental Impact Report and Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the sphere of influence (SOI) project No final action was taken. “I think it went well,” said David Miller, community development director. “We’ve been doing so much preparation and the council has been working on this for 12 years. It’s a complete planning process. We felt with the environmental overview we have provided a comprehensive analysis of all impacts and with the specific plan, we have provided the most complete document I’ve seen in California.” The project includes a mixture of residential, commercial and open space. Miller said there is an estimated 27,000 population expected. The project will be fully built out in the next 20 to 30 years. The project is a comprehensively planned community featuring new development patterns based on the principles of “smart growth” and transit-oriented development, according to officials. The project includes five elementary schools, one middle school, one high school and potentially one private school. Plans call for a park near every school. “In terms of air quality impacts, there is nothing like this in our region,” said councilman Jeffrey Starsky. A few locals voiced concerns. “I read this document, and the environmental process was alarming to me,” said Debbie Meier, of Folsom. “The property has four waterways and the proposed removal of trees. … Wildlife uses that land. As soon as you put buildings on this, it will ruin this. I think the city needs to find a new piece of land.” John Blonskij of Folsom also worried about over development. “I’ve been following this and hoped it wasn’t true,” Blonskij said. “The area over there is beautiful. I can’t believe we are sitting over here talking about this. I can’t believe we are building more strip areas. …I’m so frustrated. I’m upset.” Ardie Zahedani, principal with RCH Group, represents the seven active landowners South of Highway 50. “This has been the community vision and all landowners have actively engaged and were willing participants in this process,” Zahedani said. “It’s exciting to reach this final milestone after 12 years of engagement and collaboration with the community and the city.” Some council members tried to ease fears. “This has been going on for 12 years,” said councilman Steve Miklos. “The residents have been planning this. This is Sacramento County land owned by private landowners. This is not city of Folsom land — this is private property in the county of Sacramento. This is a resident plan.” After completing the final project document last month, Miller said it would go through more approvals before heading into construction. He said after approval by the planning commission, it should go before the city council for approval this month. If approved by the Local Agency Formation Commission, they could break ground in spring 2012, Miller said. He said there are still misconceptions in the public. “There is still a lot of communication that needs to take place from the council to the community,” Miller said. “The documents are so complex, so we want to help the public understand everything. The greatest misconception that I learned, was why we are doing this (project) with other vacancies in town.” Miller said there are two main reasons. “Number one, this is a 20 to 30 year document. This is long-time planning, 12 years in our case,” Miller said. “Number two, the Regional Housing Assessment requirement with the state. Every regional government gets regional housing development requirements. … Every city and county is allocated growth and we are required to plan for growth. …The state says we have to plan for future growth.” For more information on SOI and to read the annexation documents, visit folsom.ca.us.