Saturday, September 21, 2013

A victory for Salida: but a looming fight ahead for Salida and Wood Colony

The City of Modesto has been working to update their General Plan with a goal for planning the city's growth thru 2050.  From the city's website:
"Modesto’s General Plan amendment (GPA) project will modernize the General Plan goal and policy framework, and will result in a revised land use designation program intended to facilitate enhanced economic development. Regarding the Circulation Element, the GPA will identify priority locations and infrastructure projects, and establish stronger links to funding policies, programs and sources. Transportation corridors are a primary focus of the project, in terms of enhanced economic development potential, including mixed-use development, improved travel mode choice options and safety."

Last Monday (Sept 16) spelled the end for public meetings (also called "public workshops") on Modesto's General Plan update. Public meetings began in March for the City of Modesto's expansion into surrounding Stanislaus County land, including Salida. Salida has been in Modesto's General Plan since the mid-1990's when then Modesto Mayor, Dick Lang, sought to annex Salida and the Wood Colony area (see: A brief history of Salida and a past annexation attempt

At the first four public meetings held by Modesto's Community and Economic Development Department, public comments had been made requesting Salida be removed from Modesto's General Plan update. Much to the utter shock and surprise of those requesting the removal, Modesto's Planners actually acquiesced to this request citing in the August meeting packet on page 3: "The Salida planning area is removed due to the significant public input in opposition to its continued inclusion."  
Modesto's General Plan Update with Salida removed.
However, Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh was quick to object stating in an August 20th Modesto Bee article: "I think it's premature to do that." 
In spite of the Mayor's publicly stated objections in the Modesto Bee, Modesto's Planners held fast to their proposed plan and did not add Salida back into the plan for the September meeting and vote. As the Director of Economic and Community Development, Brent Sinclair explained, he and staff had made the recommendations because he believed, not only could he "sell the plan to the Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), but that Modesto could set the standard for all Stanislaus County communities to follow."1  At the conclusion of Monday's meeting, the City of Modesto Planning Commission discussed the General Plan Update and then voted on it. There were three commissioners: Riddle, Brandvold, and Carter who wanted Salida added back into the Plan. My blood boiled in my veins listening to them talk about Salida based on what annexing Salida could do to benefit Modesto - it was as if people didn't live
Modesto Planning Commission's BIG VOTE - 4 to 3!
there! They obviously had no care for what Salida residents' thought! Fortunately, the other four commissioners' common sense prevailed and they voted 4-3 to pass the plan and leave Salida out. 

While its definitely a victory for Salida to be removed from Modesto's General Plan Update, Salida is not quite in the free and clear yet on several levels. The next step is for the General Plan Update to be submitted to the Modesto City Council to be voted upon and approved or rejected. Its unknown how the Modesto City Council will vote on the Plan; but if I had to guess, there will be at least one vote to reject the Plan in favor of Salida being added back in and that vote would be from the person in the most denial about the annexation of Salida: Garrad Marsh. Hopefully, the other city council members have a firmer grip on the reality of the situation as Modesto's City Planners do.

While the Modesto City Council passing the Plan would be a great feat towards staving off full-scale annexation, Salida still faces a fight to fend off another land grab by Modesto. Part of the revised General Plan Update calls for the addition of land south of Kiernan Avenue between Stoddard and the land east known as "Kiernan Business Park East". This land has been designated to Salida by Stanislaus County as part of the 2007 Salida Community Plan. The showdown over this land will likely happen at LAFCO. Salida residents will need to turn out and fight for it. Every land grab that Modesto makes upon Salida hurts the economic future for Salida's tax base as a future city. An example of how such a land grab has hurt Salida, is that Salida could've likely incorporated by now with the sales and property tax revenue that Costco and surrounding businesses generate. And just so you know, Salidans did repeatedly appeal to the Planning Commission for this land to be removed from the Plan Update as well, but to no avail.

Another vital land grab that has the potential to hurt the future of Salida, are the 1,800 acres of land added in Wood Colony. In the original General Plan Update, the
Modesto's General Plan Update proposal for
the "Beckwith Triangle". (The red along Hwy 99
is "regional commercial", the purple is
"business park" and the green is
proposed land grab in Wood Colony was an area known as the "Beckwith Triangle". In June, the Modesto Chamber of Commerce presented their proposal for the General Plan Update which expanded the land grab in Wood Colony out to Hammett and Kansas. Stanislaus County District 3 Supervisor, Terry Withrow, called this expansion in July, "The Beckwith Triangle on steroids". In compromise, Modesto City Planners scaled back the northern expansion from Hammett to Dakota. While the Modesto Chamber's plan had land-locked Salida to the east and west, the actual Plan update still holds the portent of that as the City of Modesto continues its boundary creep around Salida. 

Additionally, the citizens of Wood Colony have been caught off guard by the Plan amendment and vote. Unlike Salida, many citizens of Wood Colony were sent letters inviting them to attend this latest General Plan Update "workshop". Approximately 10-15 residents did attend and many of them spoke at the meeting; reiterating the need to preserve the prime farmland and water recharge benefits of Wood Colony. But it was a little too late. This large land grab in their community was added late in the game and unlike what Salidans have been able to do for months in having our comments noted for consideration by the City Planners and Planning Commission for the next meeting, there will be no more meetings unless
Revised plan for Wood Colony
Blue-purple area denotes a combo
of Business Park/Industrial.
Green asterisk is a Regional Park.
perhaps the Modesto City Council rejects the Plan. One more very important feature to mention regarding this new General Plan update, is that unlike the old General Plan, whatever land LAFCO grants to Modesto within their new boundaries, will also be included in their "Sphere of Influence". ANY LAND within their Sphere of Influence (SOI) can be annexed and developed by them whether its designated for agricultural uses or not. Additionally, land within the SOI can adversely affect certain agricultural land designations such as land within Williamson Act contracts.

If the Modesto City Council approves the General Plan Update, this will pave the way for a repeat of the "Battle of '96 at LAFCO" with Salida and Wood Colony, side by side, fighting to save their land from being gobbled up by Modesto.


1 comment:

  1. cant wait until marsh is gone hate that guy so tired of modesto stealing from salida can wait until we ouyr own and no more modesto land grab and our taxes for our city of salida