February 14, 2012

Collision Nears on Growth Proposal: Supervisors to Weigh Tsakopoulos Bid to Transform Rural Area.

March 11, 2007

By Mary Lynne Vellinga, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.
Mar. 11–Along White Rock Road in eastern Sacramento County, pastures abruptly give way to tiled rooftops at the El Dorado County line.
On the Sacramento County side, the scene has changed little in the past century. Cows graze in gently rolling, grass-covered pastures. On the El Dorado side, however, office buildings, houses and retail stores have replaced the cattle.
Developer Angelo K. Tsakopoulos and his partners have spent the past decade accumulating ranches on both sides of the boundary. They control a swath of ranch land that straddles the county line and stretches south from White Rock Road about eight miles, beyond any land contemplated for growth by El Dorado County.
Now, Tsakopoulos is arguing to the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors that it ought to take the first step toward urbanization of his property on the Sacramento side of the county line. The justification: the thousands of new homes and jobs in El Dorado and the planned expansion of Folsom into land north of White Rock Road.
Tsakopoulos’ proposal to potentially include 3,400 acres of grazing land in the new Sacramento County plan is the most controversial issue facing the supervisors as they gather Wednesday for a workshop on the general plan, which will serve as a blueprint for growth until 2030.
His land is about four miles outside the urban growth boundary adopted by the board as part of its 1993 general plan. Environmental groups view this line as inviolate and are rallying their members to attend the workshop.
County planners also oppose moving the boundary, as does Supervisor Don Nottoli, whose district includes the land.
In a staff report, the Planning Department says 1.4 miles of Tsakopoulos’ Sacramento County land abuts planned or existing development in El Dorado County. The remaining seven miles border farmland also owned by Tsakopoulos and his partners, which remains zoned for agriculture in the El Dorado general plan.
Tsakopoulos argues that there’s no reason for the county not to include his land in the environmental review being conducted for the general plan. The actual decisions about which land will be opened for building won’t be made until the environmental analysis is done more than a year from now.
“What we’re saying is that it is prudent for the community to examine all of its options,” he said. “If we don’t examine them, we may miss them.”
He calls the eastern edge of Sacramento County “an exceptional location for future growth.”
“Often you hear that we should preserve prime agricultural land; this isn’t agricultural land,” Tsakopoulos said. “It’s grazing land, and it’s the poorest.
“We don’t have any trees. Whatever trees we have will be preserved. We don’t have endangered species. We don’t have the vernal pools you find in other parts of the county. It does not flood,” Tsakopoulos said. “This property is on the boundary of the El Dorado Hills Business Park and Folsom, which have an enormous amount of jobs.”
He held out the possibility that he would set aside significant open space land to offset development. That could help the Sacramento Valley Conservancy accomplish its goal of creating a permanent belt of ranches and oak woodlands connecting its Deer Creek Hills preserve — which abuts the Tsakopoulos land — to the Cosumnes River and the American River Parkway.
Tsakopoulos’ enthusiasm is not shared by environmentalists or government planners. They view the proposal as the first step by an influential developer to put growth where it is inappropriate.
His land, now served by a few rough gravel roads, lacks groundwater to serve potential residents, they say. Miles of ranch land separate most of it from the county’s urbanized portions.
“This is a bad idea, and it really needs to be put to rest now,” said Mike McKeever, executive director of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, the regional transportation agency.
SACOG, made up of all the local governments in the region, hosted more than 5,000 residents at workshops before its 2004 approval of the Blueprint, a regional plan to contain sprawl, revitalize existing neighborhoods, and accommodate growth over the next half century.
“We really don’t need the wasted energy and the political controversy that will ensue from including this on a study list,” McKeever said. “This region has way more important land use and transportation priorities.”
Tsakopoulos took Supervisor Notolli on a drive to show him the property, but he remained skeptical, saying he wasn’t persuaded to vote yes.
Most of the land Tsakopoulos seeks to bring into the urban area is “very rural,” Nottoli said. He said maintaining ranches helps preserve the county’s varied character.
“You’ve got a thriving urban center, you’ve got suburban communities, and then you have rural communities with a strong history,” he said. “I think it’s important to do our best to try to balance that.”
Supervisor Roger Dickinson said he is not inclined to move the growth boundary because it would be expensive for Sacramento County to serve. “For us in Sacramento County, it’s like going to Pluto,” he said. “You sort of wonder why should we spend a lot of time on this when it’s not at all clear how you provide water and other necessities.
“I think what Angelo wants is a chance to be in the game, and then make his argument, thinking he’ll be able to persuade enough people to his point of view,” Dickinson said.
In his nearly 50 years in the development business, Tsakopoulos has played a key role in transforming rural Sacramento into suburban communities such as Elk Grove, Folsom, Roseville, the Pocket, North Natomas and — most recently — Sunrise-Douglas.
Through myriad real estate partnerships, he controls about 40,000 acres in the Sacramento region and neighboring San Joaquin County — far more than any other individual.
Tsakopoulos donates millions of dollars to Democratic candidates on the local, state and national level. Last year, supervisor candidate Jimmie Yee was among the candidates he supported. Tsakopoulos and his family members held a fundraiser for Yee and donated several thousand dollars.
Now in his new supervisor’s role, Yee said last week that Tsakopoulos’ proposal to look at developing along the El Dorado County line might be worth examining in further detail. He was joined by his colleagues Susan Peters and Roberta MacGlashan, making a potential majority on the five-member board.
But Friday, Yee said he was developing doubts about whether the Tsakopoulos land should be included in the environmental review. He said maps published in The Bee showed that most of the land along the county line was slated to remain in agriculture.
“If that is all correct, my feeling right now is I wouldn’t go any farther down than what El Dorado is doing, and even that would be questionable, because Folsom hasn’t even done anything yet on their land south of Highway 50.”
Copyright (c) 2007, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.

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