The issue: Conservation, business interests can both be satisfied
In a perfect world, there would be time for all competing interests to fully discuss important civic issues before nagging realities like deadlines set in.
In the real world, however, decisions sometimes must be made in haste, with far-reaching and unpleasant consequences.
SUCH WAS THE CASE in June, when the Davis City Council voted 3-2 to accept a $1.125 million federal conservation grant for 391 acres of farmland owned by the city east of Mace Boulevard just north of Interstate 80. The property, known as Leland Ranch, was purchased in 2010 with Measure O open space money and some other city funds.
That sounds wonderful, right? The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service grant secured by the Yolo Land Trust would place a conservation easement on the property, preserving it as farmland in perpetuity — one of Davis’ treasured goals.
However, technology and business leaders have their eyes on that site as well, saying it’s the most logical location (among several ringing Davis) for a business park. It has freeway access, it’s situated well away from houses and it is adjacent to farmland that would serve as sites for research greenhouses for biotech and seed companies.
Two privately owned parcels of land adjacent to Ikeda’s fruit stand, combined with part of the city’s 391 acres, would be just what Davis needs for a business park, city staffers and business leaders say. Revenue from the sale or lease of the city land — assuming a positive Measure J/R vote of the people — plus taxes from the future tenants would infuse much-needed cash into our city’s coffers.
And, after years and years and years — OK, you get the picture — of talking about a business park to capitalize on the knowledge coming out of our world-class university, we’d actually be building a business park.
BUT ACCEPTING the grant would pretty much make this Mace/I-80 site unworkable. The two privately held properties, which comprise about 200 acres, would not be big enough for the type of business park those in the know say we need, and could fill up quite easily. We’d be taking a bite of the apple but not getting the whole juicy fruit.
Back to Measure J/R for a moment. Yes, this project would need to go to a vote. And while the Davis electorate has rejected two residential projects — Covell Village and Wildhorse Ranch — by fairly convincing margins, we have faith that voters would see the value in developing a high-end business park that would keep thriving local businesses in town and recruit new ones to our community. With business parks come jobs, something Davis always could use more of.
And what of the goal of preserving farmland? Even without the federal grant, part of Leland Ranch could stay in agriculture, and business park developers could be required to offset their development with permanent conservation commitments.
THE DAVIS CITY COUNCIL has a chance Tuesday night to take a step back from its June vote and ask city staff to put the matter on a future agenda for further discussion. That would be a win-win for everyone.