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Roseland Review - November 2014

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Roseland Review - November 2014

by Duane De Witt

What a beautiful day it was after rain blessed the Roseland NeighborWood on Saturday Oct. 25th.  It was such a lovely day with volunteers from Roseland working to keep the park clean and nice as we head into autumn.  Now with summer behind us it is time to reflect upon two ongoing efforts by local government agencies which will affect Roseland for many decades to come.  On Thursday Oct. 23rd at 10:30 am a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by Scott Bartley, outgoing Santa Rosa mayor, plus both Sonoma County Fifth District Supervisor Efren Carrillo and Supervisor Shirlee Zane at the Roseland Annexation Committee meeting held at Santa Rosa City Hall.

The memorandum pledged ongoing support by both the city and county governments to finally complete the annexation of the Roseland County Island created by the city in 1997 when thousands of acres surrounding Roseland were taken into the city.  While no specific timeline for the annexation was given, it is important to note the city and county governments signed a Joint Powers Authority Agreement (JPA) in 1984 discussing future annexation of Roseland.  With these two agreements now in place it is only a matter of political will by the next Santa Rosa City Council, after the Nov. 4th election, to put the final Roseland annexation into action.

A second meeting on that Thursday was the ongoing steering committee meeting for the Roseland Village Task Group held by the county.  This committee meets to discuss the future plans for seven acres of land in Roseland Village owned by the Sonoma County Community Development Commission courtesy of generous taxpayer funding.  The manager of the project Mr. John Haig stated, “This is a blank slate and no agreements are in place for development yet.”  He commented on the idea of having various interim uses be allowed at the site once buildings there are demolished.  This process will begin in Nov. and completed by 2015.

Members of the committee, as well as some members of the public who came to observe the meeting, discussed various ideas of how to involve community members in the planning process.  The county staff for the committee has chosen at least three local students from area schools, and Santa Rosa Junior College, to be members in an effort to get a youthful perspective in this effort.  In a later Roseland Review column the members of the committee will be introduced to the community so readers may also participate in this process by talking with committee members if they so wish.  Two main take away points to remember from this meeting are there is going to be at least a one acre in size public plaza placed on the county owned portion of the site as well as some affordable housing built somewhere there on the site.

A pleasant approach taken by the county Task Group is the allowance for, and inclusion of comments, by interested community members to enhance community engagement for planning.  This is in direct contrast to the Roseland Annexation Committee meetings which only allows public comment at the beginning of the meetings and does not allow community engagement for items on the agenda to be discussed by community members at those times they are heard.  There may be more opportunities for community involvement with the city efforts for a Roseland Specific Plan to also begin allowing some community participation in the close to two year old planning process.  Historically the city takes a top down authoritarian approach to city planning allowing for only minimal legal requirements of public comments in reaction to its plans made.

Of note from the Roseland Annexation Committee is the fact a new member Erin Carlstrom was in attendance for her first time and she voiced support for Roseland annexation.  After the election on Nov. 4 there will be other new members on the committee because both Mayor Bartley and Vice-Mayor Robin Swinth members of the original committee are not running for re-election.  Therefore the next time the committee meets it will have a new slate of three city council members and the two county supervisors.  The supervisors, who support annexation, and like-minded city council members, could push to have annexation completed within a shorter time than originally envisioned by outgoing Mayor Bartley.

A more comprehensive approach to planning combining the efforts of the Roseland Village Task Group and the city Roseland Specific Plan could benefit all of Roseland, the city and the county at the same time.