Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Modesto Bee Op Ed: Modesto trying to take bite out of Salida

11/24/2014 4:00 AM  UPDATED: 11/25/2014 1:55 PM

The first time Modesto City Councilman John Gunderson attended a Salida Municipal Advisory Council meeting back on Aug. 28, 2012, he was there to answer questions that Salidans had about the proposed annexation to Modesto.

If Salida were annexed, it would become part of Gunderson’s district.

Responding to a question regarding the annexation time frame, Gunderson said: “Nothing is going to happen for years anyway, other than maybe the nibble, nibble on your outskirts. That’s possible if the economy gets better.”

In the two years since, Salida residents have resoundingly decried Modesto’s annexation attempts.

A few weeks ago, in September, Gunderson appeared on the “Dave Bowman Show” on KFIV 1360 AM, and when asked whether Salida should be annexed, Gunderson replied he was against annexing “Salida proper.”

When Bowman pressed him to define “Salida proper,” Gunderson revealed there’s “a section being considered” and “the property owner seems to want to be with the city so he can develop.”

It appears the time for nibbling on Salida has arrived.

This proposed nibbling would occur on land Stanislaus County designated for Salida in the 2007 update of the Salida Community Plan. It’s north of Kiernan, west of Dale Road and east of Stoddard. Because this land isn’t within the current boundaries of Salida’s urbanized area, it might be more difficult for Salida residents to stop this raid.

Past annexations have put Costco and the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center into Modesto, nibbling away thousands of acres from Salida’s future tax base. Since purchasing the Del Este Water Co. in the mid-1990s, which supplied residents of Salida, Modesto has withheld supplying water to new development in Salida unless they get to annex the land into the city. Despite approving out-of-boundary water service agreements for other Del Este-served communities like Del Rio, Modesto’s quid pro quo is land-for-water from Salida.

If Modesto is once again allowed to extort land from Salida, will Modesto’s leap across Kiernan open Modesto to further legal ramifications? The encroachment north of Kiernan is Modesto’s effort to surround Salida, in effect an acre-by-acre creep toward turning Salida into an unincorporated county island. Not only is the creation of county islands prohibited by state law, the city of Modesto has already been sued with regard to county islands in the past for a practice known as “municipal underbounding.”

Coined by urban geographers, municipal underbounding describes annexation policies and practices in which cities grow around islands of low-income minority communities, often in favor of annexing predominantly white communities. Modesto holds the distinction of being one of the few cities in the United States to already have had a municipal underbounding lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed in 2004 on behalf of four neighborhoods which, unlike Salida, lack basic amenities such as sewer service. Granted, the city and county are slowly working toward annexing these communities into the city. But does “working toward” warrant a land grab on the tax base of a neighboring community?

It’s time for Modesto’s elected representatives to be held accountable. The unincorporated communities should be annexed first before the city casts beyond its borders. It’s time for Modesto to end its status quo abuse of Salida – end the water extortion, stop the annexations, no more nibbling.

Be a good neighbor, Modesto.

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The Modesto Bee does not keep many of its articles nor opinion pieces online indefinitely so as the author of this piece, I am republishing it with thanks and credit to the Modesto Bee for its original publication.

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