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Santa Rosa fast-tracking Roseland annexation

Santa Rosa officials think they may have found a way to kick-start the annexation of Roseland and save some money in the process.

On Tuesday the City Council will be asked whether to apply for a $647,000 grant to help focus future growth in the city’s southwest area around areas near transit hubs.

If it wins the grant from the Sonoma County Transportation Authority, city officials say the planning process that follows could speed annexation by engaging residents about the area’s future and by completing some of the bureaucratic legwork needed before annexation can happen.

City officials who first learned of the grant were initially skeptical because of the staff time involved in such a planning effort, said Community Development Director Chuck Regalia.

But once they studied it further, they realized it could save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in future environmental review costs, Regalia said.

“It took us a while to get on board with how to think about it, but once we did, it became a real important thing to us,” he said.

The Sonoma County Transportation Authority has received $1.4 million from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to help fund planning for growth around Bay Area transit hubs. The goal is to focus future housing and job growth around such “planned development areas” to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Sonoma County has applied for $800,000 to help it plan for job growth around the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport and the Springs area of the Sonoma Valley. Santa Rosa has applied for the balance of the funds.

The application proposes a two-year planning process covering an 1,800-acre area in the southwest Santa Rosa area focused around the Southside Bus Transfer Center at the intersection of Burbank and Hearn avenues. The “transfer center” is actually little more than two small bus shelters on either side of a cul-de-sac at the north end of Southwest Community Park.

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