City contemplates land annexation

Council looking to apply to LAFCO for several projects

The Gilroy City Council is still contemplating moving forward with plans to annex parcels of land outside city limits.

A Gilroy Sports Park expansion project and an amendment to the Wren/Hewell residential development are two projects under discussion. Upon approval by council, the projects would move toward a submittal process to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO).

At a recent study session, the council decided to discuss the issue again next month when the staff would have more information on the cost and time it would take to update the existing environmental impact report for the sports park area.

The sports park annexation was conditionally approved in 2006 by LAFCO under the provision that the city would create an agricultural mitigation plan within one year. The city did not complete a mitigation plan until 19 months after the approval, so the annexation was revoked.

The agricultural mitigation plan is still in effect.

The city staff report defines the USA amendment, which both projects would need to move forward, as “a city boundary that delineates areas that are currently provided with urban services, facilities and utilities; or areas proposed to be annexed into a city within the next five years in order to be developed and receive such services.”

LAFCO is a county agency made up of seven individuals who decide the fate of city projects that hope to bring land into the city or extend services the city provides, like water and sewer. The agency has six criteria it looks at when deciding the status of projects.

The agency looks to determine that the proposed boundaries won’t create areas that would be difficult for a city or special district to serve, that the city can provide facilities and services to the newly annexed area, and that logical boundaries are followed with natural or manmade characteristics. No new special districts should be created, adjustments have to address fiscal repercussions and the identity of the community should be taken into account.

In just over 20 years the city has submitted 20 USA Amendment requests to LAFCO, but very few have been approved. LAFCO limits any requests made by cities to one per year, meaning cities typically bundle projects.

If the city decides to move forward with the sports park plans it may take up to two years before anything is submitted for LAFCO approval.

The council was largely in agreement that the annexation of the sports park would bring much-needed revenue to the city and allow for a tourist destination with restaurants and hotels available for those who visit or use the facilities.

“There ain’t gonna be no Amazon coming to Gilroy,” said Councilmember Fred Tovar. “So we need to find revenue.”

When it came to the Wren/Hewell land, which would bring in land for 250 to 300 homes, the council was more divided.

Mayor Roland Velasco said he was sympathetic to the plight of the developers who had submitted numerous environmental impact reports. However, members of the council feared submitting the requests together or consecutively would look to the agency like urban sprawl or unregulated growth.

Tovar said the 15 percent of homes in the project that would be affordable or low-income housing are not enough to address the city’s affordable housing problem.

Connie Rogers, president of Gilroy Growing Smarter, who spearheaded the initiative for the urban growth boundary, spoke at the meeting. Rogers said she was speaking as an individual but expressed support for the sports park project and said she was even in favor of the Wren/Hewell project since the development would not happen for four to five years.

“I would really love to see the sports park fully developed and the commercial property by it developed,” said Rogers. “I see that as an economic asset.”