City government

City Council to receive update on farmland conservation easement process

By From page A1 | October 20, 2013

The Cannery public workshop

When: Tuesday, 8 p.m. (The City Council meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.)

Where: Community Chambers of City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd.

What: A presentation of The Cannery project to the community

The Project:  A 547-unit multigenerational residential neighborhood proposed for a 100-acre parcel of land in North Davis at 1111 E. Covell Blvd.

The proposal, including a finalized development, agreement won’t be fully considered by the council until Nov. 12. Deliberation and action on the application is expected to spill into the council’s Nov. 19 meeting.

Watch it live: The meeting will be broadcast on Comcast Channel 16; AT&T U-Verse Channel 99; and on the city’s website at www.cityofdavis.org/media.

Plans to turn back from placing a permanent conservation easement on 391 acres of farmland just east of Davis, and instead consider the possibility of building a tech-business park there, may be back on the table for the city.

In June, the City Council on a 3-2 vote directed city management to accept a $1.125 million USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service grant secured by Yolo Land Trust to place the easement on the property, which would preserve the land in perpetuity.

The large piece of farmland in question sits along Interstate 80 and just east of where Mace Boulevard turns into Covell Boulevard.

At that meeting, management had recommended turning down the grant, as the city had been approached by business-tech executives who envisioned building a thriving and revenue-generating business park on the farmland.

While no specific proposal had yet materialized, staff wondered whether perhaps the council should take a step back and think about the best way to utilize the property, now called Leland Ranch.

But with the item presented to them on the consent calendar and very little public involvement on the issue, Mayor Joe Krovoza and Councilmen Lucas Frerichs and Brett Lee voted in favor of sticking to the conservation plan, which includes 27 acres that would be reserved for a community farm.

Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk and Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson voted against the motion in favor of looking into the potential of building a business park.

But the possibility of altering course and exploring options for the land still has not entirely evaporated.

The city received a yearlong extension to sign the agreement for the preservation grant and, with members of the business community again encouraging the council to consider waiting on a permanent easement until all options have been considered, the council has asked for and will receive a status report on the resale process for the conservation easement Tuesday.

While no member of the council has publicly stated intentions to reconsider the decision to permanently preserve the land, if council members do in fact want to discuss the merits of a business park on the site or stop the conservation easement process, they would have to agendize an item specific to those discussions for a future date.

“(Those issues are) not in the agenda, so any expanded discussion options may be somewhat limited,” said Mike Webb, city director of community development and sustainability, in a text message. “Ultimately (City Attorney Harriet Steiner) would have to provide guidance if they wanted to do that.”

— Reach Tom Sakash at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash

Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected], (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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