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Posted: Tuesday, November 28, 2006 10:00 pm

The city of Lodi's plan to extend its sphere of influence may need to detail how the land will be used and managed before the county's Local Agency Formation Commission will consider approving it.

In most instances a city extends its sphere for only one purpose - future development. But Lodi plans to include privately owned property as a way to preserve open space, which could mean defining its uses and limitations for landowners, said Bruce Baracco, LAFCO's executive director.

"In this case, because the sphere is serving a different purpose, we've suggested to Lodi that they should create some kind of implementation strategy," Baracco said. "We haven't dealt with this yet so it could mean requesting more details from the city once we see the plans."

The Lodi City Council will decide tonight whether to proceed with a sphere of influence extension meant to preserve a mile-wide strip of agricultural land on either side of Armstrong Road from Highway 99 to a quarter mile west of Lower Sacramento Road.

Baracco said it will be the first time the San Joaquin LAFCO has had a city request a sphere change to preserve land.

He said a refined plan, including a zoning policy that would define what landowners could do on the land, could enhance the city's chances of getting an approval from LAFCO.

Landowners presented a proposal in August asking to have the property rezoned to AL-5, or limited agriculture land, meaning the land could be split into five-acre parcels in the future with some agriculture use.

Currently the land is zoned as AG-40, a zoning term for general agricultural use that allows a minimum of 40-acre lots.

"We don't plan to develop the land," said Kurt Kautz, a landowner in the proposed greenbelt area, "But it seems like the city is trying to exert control over us rather than work with us on this."

He said property owners are concerned because there is no legal definition of greenbelt zoning so nobody knows what will be allowed on the property.

Kautz also said the change would limit the value of his property. Banks would see that there is no development future for the land and would find it less equitable, according to landowners.

"If you owned a house and the city wanted to zone it so that it would never increase in value, would that be fair to you?" Kautz asked. "No, but that's exactly what they're trying to do to us."

Councilman Bob Johnson said he hopes the landowners' proposal is discussed at the meeting tonight because he feels support from the community there will be important in sustaining the greenbelt.

"It's true they don't vote in Lodi, but if we're trying to predicate our future on tourism and wine then we've got to have a good relationship with growers," Johnson said. "We've got to listen to them because we need them."

Contact reporter Rebecca Adler at rebeccaa@lodinews.com.

Council meets tonight

When: Today, 7 p.m.
Where: Carnegie Forum, 305 W. Pine St.
Those who cannot attend the meeting are encouraged to send public comment to cityclerk@lodi.gov before the meeting. Comments will be delivered to council members before the meeting begins.

First published: Wednesday, November 29, 2006

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