For years, plans for a greenbelt have stalled because the strip of land between Stockton and Lodi falls between the jurisdiction of either city.
Wednesday night, the Lodi City Council took a first step to extend the city's sphere of influence to include the greenbelt area.
"Thus, via our General Plan, we've created our community separator," said Councilman John Beckman. "I'm very happy about finally being able to get something done."
At the meeting Wednesday, council members directed city staff to prepare a General Plan amendment to extend the city's influence to a half mile south of Harney Lane and conform with the existing east west boundaries of Highway 99 and Interstate 5.
The plan would also change the land one half mile north of Armstrong Road from "residential reserve" to zoned for agriculture.
A few landowners in the greenbelt area, contacted Thursday afternoon, had no idea the council had taken a vote on a greenbelt plan.
After reviewing the staff report on the proposal, Kurt Kautz said he's not sure if the city could even move forward with such a proposal.
To extend its sphere of influence, Lodi would have to first approve a General Plan amendment and will have to submit that plan to the San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission, which reviews land use plans by cities throughout the county.
Further, Kautz said he's not sure if Lodi could extend its influence for land that will be classified as farmland. He said he also had concerns about property owners losing the development potential of their property if Lodi extends its boundaries south.
"If they (the city of Lodi) want to zone us permanent greenbelt then the landowners do want to be fairly compensated," he said.
Lodi Community Development Director Randy Hatch said the plan would establish Lodi's commitment to development a greenbelt.
"What it does do is basically lets the property owners know the city wants to move forward," he said. "It lets the citizens of the community know the council is moving on the greenbelt concept and this is something we're serious about."
He said it would also demonstrate the city's desire to include the area within its boundaries.
"This lets the county and LAFCO know we think this is part of Lodi," he said. "This is where Lodi starts and Stockton stops."
The plan would not require the approval of property owners in the area because it essentially would leave the land as it currently is zoned by the county.
"As General Plan amendments go this is an easy one because we're maintaining what's there," Hatch said.
He said he'll be working on another proposal he'll take to the council for review. Developing a General Plan amendment could cost $12,000 and a LAFCO application could cost $30,000 to $55,000 if the city hired a consultant to do the work.
If the city's planning staff kept the project in house, Hatch said the city could save a considerable amount of money but would also have to put off other planning work to focus on the project.
Still, he said he's tentatively thinking of recommending the city do the work without a consultant's help.
Mayor Susan Hitchcock has been a longtime proponent of a greenbelt between Lodi and Stockton and said she was excited by the council's action.
"I think we're really making a good move," she said.
Much work still remains to be done on how landowners in the area could receive infrastructure for future development or even develop their land and maintain a greenbelt.
"It kind of puts our footprint on it (the greenbelt area) and allows us to move forward with greater confidence and using our resources to plan for that area," she said.
First published: Friday, March 31, 2006