In a recent Facebook post, Emerson Drake announced that I had “gone over to the dark side”* because I sent an email to Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh indicating that I would like to be contacted when the ballot argument against the Stamp Out Sprawl (SOS) initiative is written.
Apparently, Mr. Drake intends to post a copy of my email to Mayor Marsh without the courtesy of asking my permission and without interviewing me to get my complete viewpoint on the subject. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to clarify my opinion for the public record.
The Need for Urban Limit Lines
Ever since Denny Jackman proposed establishing urban limit lines in the 1990’s, I have consistently supported the idea. When I served on the Modesto City Council, Councilmember Jackman and I attempted to place an urban limit line measure on the ballot. We lost by a 4 to 3 vote. The simple idea is that urban limit lines protect farm land in perpetuity.
When Mr. Jackman told me years ago that he was going to put an urban limit line measure on the ballot by collecting signatures, I supported the idea. However, Mr. Jackman scrapped the measure because he told me that he thought he could accomplish the preservation of farm land with mitigation measures that would eliminate the need for urban limit lines.
When Mr. Jackman told me this year that he had decided to proceed with a new initiative, Stamp Out Sprawl, I initially supported the effort . Mr. Jackman had lost patience with local government leaders after they broke promises to protect farmland. Furthermore, the City of Modesto announced that it planned to take Wood Colony for a giant business park and annex Salida.
The Landscape has Changed
After the City of Modesto announced that it planned to annex Salida, a very vocal group of Salidans denounced the Modesto plan and announced their intention to incorporate. One of the leaders of the Salida group told me that after Salida is incorporated, it will need to annex and urbanize a large amount of farm land around the community in order to build the tax base. The Salida Plan has already been created and will take land presently in Modesto’s sphere of influence.
If Modesto establishes urban limit lines, then Salida will have no opposition to wholesale annexation and urbanization of farm land. Modesto will no longer control the sphere of influence it currently has near the Salida community. Unintentionally, Modesto’s new urban limit lines could open the door for urban developers of farmland via the Salida Plan.
My goal of preserving farm land hasn’t changed. I sent the email to Mayor Marsh about the ballot argument for SOS before the measure qualified for the ballot. In sending the email, I had hoped changes would occur in the political atmosphere between the major players—the City of Modesto, Stanislaus County, Wood Colony residents, and citizens of Salida.
After I sent the email (but not necessarily because of it), Mayor Marsh proposed to drop Wood Colony from the General Plan in exchange for a promise by Stanislaus County not to develop a business park within the agricultural community. County Supervisor Terry Withrow and other Supervisors immediately asked the County CEO to start a dialog with the city on Mayor Marsh’s proposal.
Stamp Out Sprawl has qualified for the 2015 ballot. The ballot argument will be written during the next calendar year. While I have not officially taken a position, I will make a final decision whether or not to support SOS as close to the election as possible. My support will go in the direction of whatever is best to preserve prime farm land around the City of Modesto. Hopefully, local leaders can agree on preservation of farm land before the vote.
If there are no agreements, then the voters will have their say to impose a partial solution. But more initiatives will be necessary to establish permanent limit lines for urban areas outside of Modesto. Farm land is needed for the wellbeing of future generations, period.
*Here’s the Facebook post by Emerson Drake:
“Stamp Out Sprawl has new opposition. Bruce Frohman has gone over to the dark side and has contacted Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh to co-author the con or opposition to SOS on the ballot. More to come. Watch EyeOnModesto.com for more information including the damning emails to be released soon.”