Windsor looks to extend the life of its urban growth boundary

Almost 20 years ago, Windsor voters approved an urban growth boundary designed to keep a greenbelt and discourage sprawl. Now they are being asked to do it again.

The Town Council last week scheduled a special election for Nov. 7 to extend the life of the boundary encircling the town for another 22 years - until 2040 - with slight modifications.

“I’m really proud that this boundary has held for 20 years and that it will basically hold for 22 more. That’s 42 years,” Mayor Debora Fudge said of the expected enactment by voters.

This time around, the council is asking voters not only to reaffirm the boundary, but slightly expand it by adding 22 acres of agricultural land south of Shiloh Road to the town’s future jurisdiction.

Town Council members say they want to accommodate two existing Windsor businesses with expansion plans.

“It’s to keep our valuable business partners in Windsor,” Fudge said.

Developing the agricultural land has only been mildly controversial, with one adjacent property owner with a horse ranch speaking out against it at last week’s council meeting.

Environmental groups, including the Greenbelt Alliance, support Windsor’s proposal, although they said the town should consider charging developers to offset the loss of agricultural lands and protect them elsewhere in the town’s jurisdiction.

The Greenbelt Alliance’s only other suggestion was urging the town to renew the growth boundary for even longer.

In 2016, Sebastopol renewed its urban growth boundary for 25 years and Cotati for 30 years, with strong support from the voters, the alliance noted in a letter to the Windsor Town Council.

But Windsor wants the time frame to coincide with life of the town’s general plan, the blueprint for land use and zoning currently being revised to run until 2040.

All cities in Sonoma County have voter-enacted growth boundaries, with Cloverdale the last to adopt one in 2010.

The sharp lines delineating how far a city can expand are considered a way to help preserve agriculture and open space and create compact, pedestrian-oriented development close to train and bus routes.

When Windsor created its first urban boundary, it was especially controversial because it deleted 293 acres outside the town north of Arata Lane the Town Council had previously designated for future, low-density housing.

But voters approved the boundary by 72 percent.

Fudge noted that in the ensuing decades Windsor has not annexed all the land on its edges it could have.

“We’ve really concentrated growth downtown and I think we’ve done a good job,” she said. “Windsor citizens seem happy with it.”

The 22 acres of agricultural land proposed to be added to the town would be pre-zoned light industrial and “public/institutional.”

But if they are annexed it would have to be approved by the Sonoma County Local Agency Formation Commission.

And once the land fell within Windsor’s boundary, the Town Council would need to review and approve any specific development projects.

The majority of the land is owned by Waterworks Industries, which last year bought the property owned by the late rancher Vic Pozzi at 1264 and 1364 Shiloh Road. Waterworks wants to locate its offices there and possibly accommodate an expansion of Santa Rosa Junior College’s public safety training center as well.

The other involves ATP Group, a wine industry supplier, which wants to expand its existing facilities at 1230 Shiloh Road onto an adjacent 2.5-acre parcel.

Despite the current agricultural designation, ATP President Luca Zanin said the property was occupied by numerous leaking abandoned vehicles and “on its way to becoming a toxic dump.”

Councilman Dominic Foppoli said his winery is a customer of ATP and gets some of its lab testing done through the company. Because the company supports agriculture “we are able to be a stronger family farm,” he said.

“This is wonderful that it goes to the vote of the people,” he said of the urban boundary. “That way our town gets to decide what we want to do.”

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