The Novato planning commission on Monday delayed a decision supported by city leaders that critics say would have jeopardized the city’s urban growth boundary (UGB) ordinance re-enacted last year.
The commission was set to vote on a development proposal which would see a new luxury home built on a vacant lot in the rural Black Point part of town—a tract that is beyond city limits and the urban growth boundary. The planning commission was encouraged to adopt the resolution to extend the UGB to encompass the proposed building site by Novato community development director Robert Brown and city attorney Jeff Walter.
The lot is currently undevelopable given that there are no sewer or septic systems in place—and not enough space to accommodate them. The owner, Victoria Granucci, proposed to build a sewer system in the StoneTree Golf Course, which is inside the UGB line. That proposal was first made in 2005, before Granucci bought the property, and consisted of an “easement in the golf course property which allowed the installation of leach fields to service a septic system built on the property,” according to city documents related to the years-in-the-making proposal.
“Lacking access to the adjacent golf course property for a leach field, the Granucci parcel is not developable,” the city averred as it downplayed any potential for sprawl to break out because of the Granucci build-out: “Granting of the UGB extension would allow only one single-family dwelling (and possible accessory dwelling unit) since, under county zoning regulations, the parcel cannot be further subdivided and is not zoned for or of sufficient size to allow multiple dwellings.”
The Greenbelt Alliance fears a development exemption for this parcel could lead to “more houses and developments outside the UGB, leading to more sprawl and congestion,” according to Teri Shore, North Bay regional director at the alliance.
The contentious proposal hit a wall Monday night as the planning commission voted to push off a decision until Oct. 15—despite a 142-page staff report in support of the proposal.
“Greenbelt Alliance has many questions and concerns,” says Shore, “including that this exemption to the UGB could set a precedent, as it would be the first time that the clear line between the city of Novato and the Black Point community would be blurred. Given that the UGB boundary is voter-approved, a significant change like this should at least go to the voters.”
In 2017, voters in Novato overwhelmingly agreed to extend the original 1997 UGB ordinance for another 20 years—73 percent of Novato citizens signaled ongoing support for the boundary, which is designed to prevent sprawl.—Tom Gogola