Mayor Marsh’s Letter to the Modesto Bee
Often there is perception and then there is reality. The City Council actions on the General Plan Update have, for most, been perceived differently from what is real.
The most far reaching recommendations to protect our agricultural economy ever in Modesto’s history were proposed by the Modesto City Council. At the January 28th Council meeting, the General Plan (of our land use) was recommended to be amended. Unlike reports and some general concepts of the votes taken, these votes were unprecedented in the history of Modesto.
There were four votes to preserve ag that evening that were unlike any former votes ever made by a Modesto City Council. This seemed to be missed in the reporting and in the general public’s understanding of the events of that long evening.
First, Modesto REVERSED an almost 20-year general plan policy by RETURNING over 800 acres of Wood Colony to agricultural zoning. In 1995 Modesto designated the “Beckwith Triangle” to become business, industrial, and commercial uses. This council is abandoning the scope of that former unsound plan.
Second, your City Council rejected the Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s plan to convert almost another 1,000 acres of Wood Colony into industrial and business park uses. The Chamber had actively lobbied your Council to target this pristine agricultural treasure for development. Modesto Chamber’s early plan was to take over 4,000 acres of Wood Colony, but Modesto staff lowered that to about a thousand. I believe Modesto’s Council has never before been so agricultural friendly as to rebuff the developer packed Chamber’s proposal.
Third, based upon feisty Councilwoman Jenny Kenoyer’s motion, Modesto moved forward the idea of farmland mitigation. Never in Modesto’s history has it taken steps to enact a policy to save farmland. On a narrow 4-3 vote this policy change moved forward. If completed it would require permanent protection of agricultural land equal to any land the City takes into its city limits.
And fourth, Modesto is returning 1,500 acres of land that was targeted for housing back to ag and out of the General Plan. It also is returning 320 acres of business-designated land to agricultural uses. What especially makes these plans unparalleled is this land was already blessed by LAFCO (the countywide land authority on urbanization) to let Modesto develop. Think of that. Modesto is taking prime farmland that has for decades been planned to be paved over for housing and returning it to agricultural uses.
I am of the opinion that those who have had undue influence over the city’s council for far too long, were shocked by the results of Jan. 28th’s actions. There have even been whispers of recall. Really? A recall because the importance of ag was finally recognized by action. This Council finally put our agricultural heritage ahead of money.
Besides those extraordinary votes, the Council took action to secure well-located business property for the future. I support the idea of moving forward on the business designated land around Gregori High. The County Board of Supervisors had already given a 25 year right for developers to build on this land. This is the best and quickest way for Modesto to attract more jobs without taking any land that retained its agricultural zoning.
One other vote from the week previous to the General Plan agenda also got no coverage. The City Council moved a residential urban limits (RUL) question to the next City ballot. If approved by the voters, this would build a wall between Modesto and prime farmland for building of homes. Again, an historic move by this Council.
If anyone would like more information on these historic steps toward Modesto’s recognition of agriculture’s importance to our economy or the votes taken by your council, I would be pleased to meet with you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will be presenting the State of the City address on Wednesday, February 26th at 5:30 p.m. The address will be given in the City Council chambers, lower floor of the City-County building, 1010 10th street. Questions will be taken at the end of the address.
Garrad Marsh, MayorCity of Modesto
3700 McHenry Ave.Modesto, CA 95356209-417-7991
We’ve added Marsh’s letter to the Eye to future reference it. It has been spread on facebook days before being printed in the Bee. We will respond to its contents at a future date.