October 30, 2013
Developer plans 2,000 new homes northeast of Galt
By Jennifer Bonnett, News-Sentinel Staff Writer
Superintendents of the two Galt school districts are interested in a new housing development that could generate 2,000 new homes east of Liberty Ranch High School and ultimately increase school funding.
The property off Twin Cities and Marengo roads includes 350 acres purchased by SunCal under the ownership of Galt Communities, LLC, about two years ago. Now that the economy is beginning to rebound, the developers are looking to move forward with construction.
They have built developments elsewhere in Sacramento and Placer counties.
In Galt, they would not only like to erect houses, but also to create open space areas and connect the development to the city with paths suitable for walking and biking. They also want to enhance the waterway habitat along Dead Man’s Gulch to include possible hiking and water recreation opportunities.
If the project is approved, the goal is to break ground in mid-2015, according to SunCal Vice President Sam Veltri.
The next step is for the city to hire an independent consultant to prepare an Environmental Impact Report paid for by the applicant, according to Sandra Kiriu, the city’s community development director.
She expects to have the consultant on board late next month. After that, the applicant can submit a formal application and public outreach will commence soon thereafter. Karen Schauer, superintendent of Galt Joint Union Elementary School District, attended the Galt City Council meeting earlier this month where Veltri’s team gave the public its first official glimpse at the proposed project. She said the plan captures the strengths of Galt and surrounding communities.
“I especially liked the barn-like community center that complements the conceptual plans we have for a future elementary school in Galt,” she said this week.
In her six years as superintendent, the district has seen declining enrollment and no new schools have been built.
“I am pleased to see new development with homes that are attractive to families seeking a caring community and strong schools to raise their children,” Schauer said.
Just last week, the district’s school board approved increasing developer fees by 7 cents per square foot, from $3.10 to $3.17.
A consultant has estimated that about 618,000 total square feet of housing will be built within the next few years, increasing the district’s development fee revenue to $42,260. The SunCal project would further increase that amount.
Additional students living in the proposed residences would also raise per-pupil state and federal funding for both Galt school districts.
In talks with the Galt Joint Union High School District, SunCal said it would like to turn Liberty Ranch High School’s entrance toward the development, as well as somehow connect McCaffrey Middle School, according to Veltri.
“We’re trying to tie everyone together in one walkable way or the other,” he said, adding that he would like to develop different neighborhoods within the property.
Before construction begins, a portion of the property will need to be annexed, which would also bring Liberty Ranch into city limits, a move that could save the district thousands.
Like Schauer, the city is excited about the developer’s proposed design theme, which includes acknowledging Galt’s agricultural surroundings and a focus on enhancing the existing creek habitat by making it part of an expanded parkway with community amenities and resources, including linkage to Liberty Ranch, Kiriu said.
The new homes will also increase city revenues, support local businesses and bring the city’s population closer to that minimum threshold necessary to attract more national retail stores, according to Kiriu.
“A larger labor pool could also help bring more office and industrial jobs to the city,” she said.
Meanwhile, other developers continue to build elsewhere in Galt. Plans for both Elliott Homes and Signature Homes have been approved, according to City Manager Jason Behrmann.
On Oct. 17, five permits were issued for Elliott and seven for Signature. Both anticipate preparing the sites for construction this week, and both companies plan to build at least one model home.