The plan is essentially a map of areas the conservancy would like to see preserved from future development, including wide swaths of agricultural land, woodland and open space in the south and east sections of the county. The group is calling on local government and citizens to start planning in earnest now in order to preserve enough open space for the future.
“We wanted to present a snapshot of what it could look like at build-out. These are the essential resource areas that need to be looked at if we are going to have a sustainable quality of life,” said SVOSC director Aimee Rutledge.
How does the vision become reality? One possibility is public funding through a dedicated sales tax that would be used to purchase land or development rights on existing ag-land and open space.
Voters in Placer County are considering just such a proposal on their November ballot. Measures V and W constitute the Placer Legacy proposal, which seeks to set aside significant chunks of open space for future decades.
Currently, the SVOSC relies on public and private grant money to purchase easements from willing sellers. Those grants only go so far, especially in these days of skyrocketing land prices fueled by intense speculation. And relying on developers to mitigate for open-space loss has led to a sort of piecemeal approach that threatens to leave the county without any significant cores of unbroken habitat and ag-land.
“There’s not a lot of time left,” said Rutledge, emphasizing the need for a more comprehensive plan.
The vision map focuses primarily on the south and east portions of the county. Rutledge concedes that much of the east county is already built out, or threatened by development because of the city of Folsom’s plan to expand its sphere of influence and the Deer Creek Hills project that will appear on next month’s ballot.
Rutledge said it’s crucial to plan now for the south county, because it’s only a matter of time before development pressures begin to build there.