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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Winters recognized for smart city planning

Only 15 miles west of Davis, the small city of Winters is ready for their moment in the spotlight.

With only a 7,000 resident population, Winters did not anticipate winning an award for city planning from the annual Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) Salutes! Regional Awards Program. After a nomination from Yolo County Supervisor Helen Thomson, Winters won the Blueprint Excellence award in December.

“The city of Winters deserves SACOG’s acknowledgement for its vision and tenacious implementation of smart growth principles,” Thomson said in her nomination letter.

Thomson, whose district does not cover Winters, recognized the city’s planning efforts and nominated Winters last October.

“We are very honored that Helen Thomson nominated us,” said Winters City Manager John Donlevy. “We’re like everyone else: We are trying to survive, trying to generate opportunity for our community. We are really honored. [The award] came out of the blue.”

Some of the winning blueprint features of Winters include a downtown master plan, revised parking codes and new biking and pedestrian facilities. Many of their projects are congruent with SACOG’s expectations for city planning.

“We are trying to reduce urban sprawl and preserve farmland and open spaces,” McKeever said. “Winters is a great example of both sides of that coin.”

SACOG executive director Mike McKeever said Winters is a unique town historically, and they have already implemented many of their development plans – a big feat in a tough economy.

“Competing against the biggest local governments in the region, they really stood out for the high quality of what they’ve done,” McKeever said. “They are not just talking about what they’ve done, they are doing it.”

Each year SACOG awards cities and local organizations within the council’s six-county region. Aside from the blueprint award, other categories include citizen of the year, employee of the year, regional business of the year and regional project of the year.

The Blueprint Excellence award began in 2004. Cities such as Rancho Cordova and Roseville have won the award in years past, said public information coordinator Erik Johnson. The Blueprint award is focused on planning, housing, transportation and future development.

“[The award is about] ongoing efforts to make planning projects move forward,” Johnson said.

As for the future of Winters, this award has done more than recognize their success; it will help with its growth.

“Over the course of the next 24 months we have almost $40 million worth of projects we’ll be hitting in our downtown,” Donlevy said. “We aren’t anticipating huge subdivisions, but we do anticipate business growth.”

Once the sunnier seasons return, Donlevy said students should make their way to Winters to take a walk along Putah Creek, view the downtown sights, including renovated building facades, and enjoy the Sunday farmers market.

“[Winters is] a really, really unique jewel,” McKeever said.

SASHA LEKACH can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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