A status report and update on the possible expansion of the Sphere of Influence (SOI) for the City of Riverbank took place at the Tuesday, Aug. 11 Riverbank City Council meeting, with information presented by Consulting Planner, John Anderson. Though the council did not make any final decisions, they reviewed a number of options and agreed to bring the issue back for additional study and discussion in September.
On the agenda listed under background and analysis for the issue, it states, Stanislaus County LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) approved a Municipal Service Review (“MSR”) for the City of Riverbank on June 26, 2013. The adopted MSR considered the city’s existing SOI boundaries which were adopted by LAFCO on May 28, 1997 and comprised 3,371 acres.
Historically, the staff report continued, the City of Riverbank has taken a conservative approach with the adoption of its SOI boundaries. The City Council in 2009 chose not to pursue an expanded SOI boundary with the update of its General Plan and instead suggested that any new growth areas would be handled on a case by case basis. This is contrary to the strategies being employed by other cities in Stanislaus County, but not unusual. The Riverbank City Council could choose to pursue a possible expansion of the SOI to the west to accommodate development projects like the proposed Specific Plan for a 380 acre area currently known as Crossroads West. The City Council could consider additional SOI expansion to the east of the Riverbank Industrial Complex to accommodate additional industrial development. The area to the east of Riverbank is of special interest to the City in light of discussions with Stanislaus County representatives concerning the North County Corridor (“NCC”) and what alternative circulation opportunities might result if the NCC were to be built in the future. Staff has expressed concern that the NCC would restrict the free flow of traffic circulation on the east side of the City as direct access to the NCC would be prohibited. In fact, access would be restricted to urban interchanges with the closest one being planned for the Claus/Claribel intersection.
The City Council, during its Strategic Planning session held March 31, 2015, suggested that under the five-year Goal of “Achieve and Maintain Financial Stability and Sustainability” that the City would pursue an expanded SOI to include properties to the east as well as the west. This summary report is a follow-up to the Objectives set by the City Council earlier this year.
The Riverbank General Plan and General Plan Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) cover a fairly large geographic area in and around Riverbank, encompassing some 6,010 acres. The public service demands of the General Plan area were studied by Nolte Engineering. Water, sewer and storm drainage infrastructure Master Plans were updated at the same time the 2009 General Plan was adopted. The General Plan EIR fully analyzed the environmental impacts associated with an expanded City and staff will rely on these adopted documents to prepare all necessary applications with LAFCO. Ultimately, any expansion of Riverbank’s SOI would require the City to revisit and update the adopted MSR. Both the updated MSR and the SOI boundary would be part of a future LAFCO action.
At the Aug. 11 session, City Council members were shown five options to consider on the possible SOI expansion which were Option A, expand the SOI to the West to include the Crossroads West Specific Plan area; Option B, expand the SOI easterly to Eleanor and south of Kentucky; Option C, expand the SOI to include Options A and B above; Option D, expand the SOI to include Option C above as well as the area north of Mesa Drive to SR 108; and Option E, Expand the SOI to the limits of the 2009 General Plan.
Information presented to the council noted that each of the options has its pros and cons depending on what perspective the council has on future growth options. Expanding an SOI does not annex property, planner Anderson noted. The SOI acts as a tool to identify the selected areas for consideration of future City services based on realistic growth projections. The tool LAFCO uses in this regard is the establishment of a “Primary” growth boundary, seen as an area the City may grow to within 10 years, and a “Transition” area the City might grow into between 10 and 20 years. LAFCO also allows jurisdictions to establish areas of interest, which are areas beyond the adopted SOI.
There are several steps to complete a SOI expansion.
“The Council did not make any decisions; however, there seemed to be an interest in Option C,” said Jill Anderson, City Manager. “The matter will be brought back for additional consideration on Sept. 22.”