By Victoria Martinez
The first of what is expected to be many conversations between Solvang residents, city staff and government officials related to the city’s Sphere of Influence Amendment and Annexation study, will take place at the Solvang Planning Commission meeting at 6 p.m.on Monday, Feb 5, when the commission considers land use scenarios for the purpose of preparing the fiscal impact component of the study.
Though some residents have voiced serious concerns over the impact of further annexation and the opportunity for community input related to Solvang’s future growth, Solvang’s Planning and Economic Development Director Holly Owen believes this meeting is just the first that will allow for residents to be heard and the city’s Planning Commission and City Council to explore if and how the city should move forward.
“It’s just the public conversation that needs to happen,” Owen said.
City Council has had at least half a dozen public conversations about exploring Sphere of Influence Amendments and future annexation since 2012. Solvang’s last annexation of land occurred with the nine-acre Sunny Fields Park area in 2005.
Owen explained that Monday’s meeting, along with the Feb. 26 City Council meeting, are to review a variety of scenarios and make recommendations to the city and the consultants working on the study. The four land use scenarios being presented to the Planning Commission are for discussion purposes only and choosing any of the scenarios will in no way commit the city or property owners to any future changes.
“These first two meetings are just to get direction from Planning Commission and Council as to where to focus the next effort, that of figuring out if the proposed uses really ‘pay’ over time, or whether it will cost the city more in services than we get back in revenue, or at least in filling a strong community need,” Owen explained.
However the Planning Commission and City Council decide to move forward, any process going forward would be a lengthy one due to necessary procedures, studies, approvals, and funding. The city has invited Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) Executive Director Paul Hood to speak about the annexation process and timeline in general at the Feb. 26 City Council meeting.
The meeting will take place in Council Chambers, 1644 Oak St.