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Policy: Premature Extension of Urban Services – Special Districts

Prior to the Commission’s consideration of an expansion of a sphere of influence or a change of organization involving annexation of territory into a district, the applicant shall provide written evidence from the affected district that it has the physical and fiscal capability to adequately serve the subject territory.

The Commission discourages the extension of urban services (i.e., water and sewer service) in the absence of either existing development or plans for imminent development.

Legal Authority

State law calls for the logical formation of local government agencies and orderly modification of their boundaries. A preference is granted to growth within, or through the expansion of, the boundaries of those local agencies, which can best accommodate and provide necessary governmental services in the most efficient manner feasible.

California Government Code §56653 states in part:

  1. Whenever a local agency or school district submits a resolution of application for a change of organization or reorganization pursuant to this part, the local agency shall submit with the resolution of application a plan for providing services within the affected territory.
  2. The plan for providing services shall include all of the following information and any additional information required by the commission or the executive officer:
    1. An enumeration and description of the services to be extended to the affected territory.
    2. The level and range of those services.
    3. An indication of when those services can feasibly be extended to the affected territory.
    4. An indication of any improvement or upgrading of structures, roads, sewer or water facilities, or other conditions the local agency would impose or require within the affected territory if the change of organization or reorganization is completed. 
    5. Information with respect to how those services will be financed.

The legislature empowered the commission to establish criteria for review and approval of proposals.

Background and Discussion

One of the underlying tenets of planning in Sonoma County is the cautious and deliberate expansion of public services. Recognizing that sprawling development generally results in more costly public services, the Commission discourages premature expansion of services. Compact special district boundaries provide for a more efficient development pattern and lower costs. Generally, the boundaries of a special district are coterminous with its sphere of influence; thus any proposal to the Commission to annex territory to a special district must be accompanied by a request to amend the district’s sphere of influence.

The County of Sonoma’s General Plan designates “urban service area” boundaries for all sanitation districts or zones in the County. The Commission’s policy is to align sanitation district/zone spheres of influence with the “urban service area” boundary. Therefore, prior to applying to the Commission to amend the sphere of a sanitation district, the applicant should apply to the County of Sonoma for a General Plan Amendment to expand the district’s “urban service area” boundary, prepare the necessary environmental documents, and confirm the district’s capacity to provide the requested service.

Whenever possible, the Commission encourages a district or applicant to prepare a site-specific project review prior to the submittal of an application for a sphere of influence amendment and annexation. Such reviews provide the Commission with sufficient information to determine whether the annexation is premature.

Adopted: August 2006
Amended: May 2, 2012