Again local land use wars?
Land use issues are once again in the news. The county asked the town of Fairfield to broker a deal in which Fairfield would treat water from the Solano Irrigation District to make it potable, then sell it back to SID, which would then supply it to a housing project in Middle Green. Valley in the county. (Phew! Understand all that?)
A dozen years ago, developer Anthony Russo began the process of planting 400 homes in rural Middle Green Valley. The houses would be grouped together in discrete places; most of the land along Green Valley Road would remain in agriculture. The valley would retain its rural appearance. Not bad. In its overall concept, the Orderly Growth Committee liked it.
The big question was (and still is): where will residents get their water and sewer service? The plan contained various options to explore. One was to obtain these services from the City of Fairfield and the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District. The Orderly Growth Committee did not like this option because it would set a terrible precedent: to support urban-type development in agricultural areas of our county. It’s been banned for 35 years.
Let’s go back to when the county established the concept of orderly growth. Urban type development such as homes, offices and factories would be limited to the seven municipalities of Solano. Cities have infrastructure (police, fire, water, sewer, streets, etc.) to support urban-like growth. The county would focus on agriculture.
“What is urban must be municipal”, was the motto.
Good deal. Sensitive. Solano County was the first county in California to control its growth. The result is surprisingly successful. Go up the spine of the county, Interstate 80. You see first Vallejo, then green, then Fairfield, then green, then Vacaville, then green, then Dixon and more green. Do you like to? I do! (I grew up in Los Angeles.)
But developers value profits over open space and good planning. For decades, they have coveted the rural Suisun Valley and the Green Valley. They are flat, adjacent to a highway, with plenty of water and sewer nearby in Fairfield. Who cares about vines, anyway? Who cares about some of the best agricultural soil in the world? Not the developers.
Years ago Fairfield, crazed with growth, annexed the Lower Green Valley. Soon, legendary developer Billy Yarbrough purchased Middle Green Valley and prepared to propose that it be annexed as well. Citizens rioted and stopped this during the “land use wars” of the late 1990s.
So now it’s up to Billy’s son-in-law to develop Middle Green Valley as a county project – but with a plan to get the town’s water purification services.
The Orderly Growth Committee says, not so fast. Fairfield’s general plan states that we will not extend our “basic municipal services” beyond our urban boundary. The county’s own environmental report warned them of this fact.
But now the county wants Fairfield to treat SID’s water and sell it back to SID for delivery to Middle Green Valley. They cleverly say that Fairfield does not “service” water, but treats it. “Fairfield’s general plan doesn’t apply here,” he says. Unfortunately, six city council members seem to agree.
One, however, disagrees – Catherine Moy. She thinks that the “treatment” of water – making it drinkable – is considered a “basic municipal service”. I am okay. To test this, let’s leave Fairfield water untreated for a week and see what the people of Fairfield say. Is city water treatment basic or an optional service?
There are those who think Orderly Growth is splitting hairs over Russo’s proposal. But his bet to get municipal services is dangerous because of his precedent.
The precedent could lead to the development of chunks of the Fairfield-Vacaville Greenbelt on the Vanden Road or in the Suisun Valley. This effort could be the start of dismantling the whole idea of orderly growth, that urban uses should stay in cities. He invites the Los Angelization of rural Solano County.
Supervisors Jim Spering and John Vasquez, both “developer-friendly”, have spoken openly about “affordable housing in the county”. Talk to the cities, boys. This is where affordable housing goes.
And to Fairfield City Council: Please represent your citizens, not the developers.
Jack Batson is a former member of Fairfield City Council. Contact him by email at [email protected].