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City of Sonoma readies to renew Urban Growth Boundary

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The City of Sonoma is moving forward to renew its existing Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) for another 20 years by placing a ballot measure before voters in November 2020. This is great news for open space and agricultural lands and climate-wise, city-centered growth for the next generation.

After a robust discussion and hearing from a crowd who cared deeply about the community and environment, city leaders agreed unanimously to ask city voters to renew the existing UGB as is. Next steps will be to finalize the ballot measure text with public review at upcoming City Council and Planning Commission meetings.

Mayor Logan Harvey and Chair Robert Felder presided over the special joint meeting of the City Council and Planning Commission on Jan. 27 at Vintage House where the UGB was discussed. The Citizens to Renew the City of Sonoma's Urban Growth Boundary were there to make a solid case for the 20-year UGB renewal and City Manager Cathy Capriola and her staff provided a draft UGB measure for public review.

The UGB is simply a line around the city that protects open space and ag lands. It prevents urbanization and development beyond the boundary without a majority vote of approval by its citizens. The UGB can be revised if needed at any time by going back to the voters. It gives the community a direct voice in the future of the city.

The city will be updating its General Plan, Housing Element and Zoning Code in coming years to determine how the community will grow. For those concerned about affordable housing, the renewed UGB is slated to contain stronger provisions requiring 100-percent affordable housing if the City Council finds a need to allow an exemption from the UGB under certain conditions.

If the UGB is not renewed in 2020, its boundary can be modified by the vote of a simple majority in the City Council. This would put the future size of Sonoma on the ballot in every city council election, every two years.

Teri Shore is Regional Director of North Bay Greenbelt Alliance. We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write openmic@bohemian.com.

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