Open space annexation is on track - Agency hopes to encompass 220 square miles of Coastside

By Amelia Hansen, STAFF WRITER
San Mateo County Times


Slowly but surely, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District is advancing through the procedural steps it must take to expand its boundary to include 220 square miles of land on the San Mateo County Coast.

Wednesday, the Santa Clara County Local Agency Formation (LAFCo) voted unanimously to recommend approval of the district's "Coastside Protection Program" to San Mateo County LAFCo -- the agency that will make the final decision about the boundary change.

Martha Poyatos, executive officer of San Mateo County LAFCo, said Thursday that the next step is for her agency to hold further public hearings; the next one will be on March 9 in Half Moon Bay.

The district currently owns or maintains 48,000 acres of open space, including 26 nature preserves, in Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, and San Mateo counties.

Under the proposed plan, the district would purchase or manage some 11,800 acres of the 140,000 acres in the coastal annexation area over the next 15 years. They would be purchased from "willing sellers" only.

Some Coastside residents have remained opposed to the annexation, citing -- among other factors -- concern the district would use eminent domain, or the seizure of private land through condemnation.

But in a surprising announcement, made jointly with the San Mateo County Farm Bureau two weeks ago, the district stated it would take state legislative action to permanently give up its power of eminent domain on the Coast; the Farm Bureau, for the first time, endorsed the program.

Dunia Noel, an analyst for Santa Clara LAFCO, said her organization was "pleasantly surprised" with the agreement between the two groups.

"It was definitely one thing we considered," Noel said. "There had been quite a lot of opposition coming from those in the agricultural community, and there were some questions about the district's ability to work with and manage agriculture land."

Noel said the agreement was "significant" in their review of the application, but was not the only issue considered. The next San Mateo County LAFCo public hearing on the annexation is scheduled March 9, at 7:30 p.m. at 535 Kelly Ave., Half Moon Bay.

Staff writer Amelia Hansen covers the Coast. She can be reached at (650) 348-4301 or by e-mail at .



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