General plan joint session draws few residents

Decisions will guide growth through 2020
By: Tom Durkin
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Despite pleas from the Colfax City Council and Planning Commission, only about a dozen curious citizens showed up to participate in last Wednesday’s joint planning session. The meeting was the first in a series of joint sessions designed to plan for the growth of the city out to 2020 with a potential population of 5,000. The overriding theme of the joint session was that Colfax is going to have to live a long time with the decisions made over the next 18 months. Moreover, how the city writes the general plan will determine the very infrastructure of the city itself. This could include closing an existing railroad crossing and opening a new one, installing traffic lights, reconstructing intersections, extending water and sewer service, and possibly annexing areas immediately surrounding the city. Last week’s meeting was the first in a series of joint sessions in consultation with North Fork Associates. The Auburn-based firm has been retained with a $35,000 Community Development Block Grant to assist the city in writing four elements – land use, circulation (traffic), conservation and open space – of a limited general plan update. Not being addressed at this time are the housing, noise and safety elements of the overall general plan, which could include a complete environmental impact report (EIR) for the area – if funding can be found to finance the EIR. In attendance were Mayor Sherri Blackmun and council members Josh Alpine and Suzanne Roberts as well as Planning Commissioners Rick Anzelc, Melba Delfino and Ben Roberts. Leading the presentation for North Fork Associates was Eileen Shaw, a certified urban planner, who was joined by Colfax City Planning Director Sherri Conway. As discussed, the general plan can steer the city in any direction from becoming a last-chance truck stop/strip mall town on I-80 to a railroad tourist destination and a desirable place to live. The council members and planning commissioners noted this limited general plan update will happen with or without public input. They emphatically urged the public to get involved. One of top items discussed was North Fork’s preliminary proposal for a sphere of influence (SOI) map for the city. An SOI map shows how the city might redefine the city limits and determine which areas around Colfax should be included in the planning process. Unincorporated regions within the Colfax SOI give the city a greater degree of control over development that would otherwise be dictated by Placer County. Defined another way, unincorporated areas within the SOI are generally identified as those neighborhoods that depend upon the city for everything from police and fire protection to shopping and business services. The final SOI map could include which localities might be targeted for future city sewer service. Shaw was careful to emphasize the SOI map was simply a staring point for discussion, not a definitive staff recommendation. The council and commission members immediately identified the vicinity around Iowa Hill Road as an area they want included in the SOI map. There were two “areas of interest” on the tentative map. The larger area was west of Colfax High School and Tokayana Way extending down toward the Bear River. The other, smaller area is south of town. Other issues that came up during the joint council/planning session included: · Closing the Dinky Way railroad crossing downtown in a deal with Union Pacific to build a new crossing south of town. · Building a road from Colfax High School to Highway 174. · Restructuring the I-80 corridor to accommodate Caltrans truck snow chain control, which is currently located in Applegate. · Updating the city’s zoning map, which is decades old and could conceivably allow the construction of a factory downtown. Unlike recent city council meetings, the joint planning session was characterized by a polite, positive and productive exchange of ideas. As City Manager Joan Phillipe happily put it, “Nobody yelled.”