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Healdsburg prepares ballot measure to ease growth limits

Language for a proposed voter measure to loosen Healdsburg's growth limits is up for approval at Monday's City Council meeting.

After six months and seven public meetings by a committee that studied the issue, the council is poised to incorporate the group's recommendations into a draft ordinance for a future ballot measure.

The proposal is intended to ease a growth cap on home construction to provide flexibility for new types of development, especially near the city gateway now dominated by a lumberyard and the area around the train depot.

In the late 1990s, rapid residential growth and construction of subdivisions like Parkland Farms at the city's north end spawned a voter initiative intended to preserve Healdsburg's small-town character.

Measure M, approved by voters in 2000, limits the number of building permits the city can issue to an average of 30 per year over three years, not to exceed a total of 90.

Largely due to the housing slump, Healdsburg has averaged only 13 units annually over the past dozen years, according to city planners, much less than what is allowed under the existing ordinance.

But planning officials say that for projects to pencil out — especially with the higher density envisioned for a vibrant downtown — developers need to be able to build more units at once.

As a result, an eight-member committee recommended the city allow developers to build up to 510 new dwelling units over 15 years.

That compares to 450 that would be allowed in that same period under current voter-approved growth ordinance.

"The changes being proposed are not inordinately different from what we've already got," said Councilman Tom Chambers, who headed up the Growth Management Advisory Committee that came up with the recommendations.

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