At the September 20 town hall meeting, Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh proposed a solution for protecting Wood Colony from urban development. He suggested that Modesto enter into a written agreement with the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors to leave the area zoned for agriculture in perpetuity. In exchange, Modesto would drop its efforts to annex the area into the General Plan. The agreement would also need to preclude a future incorporated City of Salida from annexing Wood Colony.
An Opportunity for Action
After I read Kevin Valine’s story in the Modesto Bee, I sent a note to Mayor Marsh asking him to draft a written proposal to bring before the City Council to do the very thing he suggested at the town hall meeting. Then, I sent a letter to the Editor of the Bee in support of the Mayor’s town hall suggestion
I also sent a copy of my Modesto Bee letter to Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow asking him to draft a parallel document for the county. The purpose of the document is to enable negotiations to begin on a final draft that would represent a meeting of the minds among city and county leaders.
If an agreement is reached, residents of Wood Colony will finally be assured their farms are safe from urban encroachment.
On September 25th, Supervisor Withrow announced that Stanislaus County will attempt to reach agreement with the City of Modesto regarding the future of Wood Colony. In an email statement, Supervisor Withrow made the following announcement:
“Please see attached the letter which I asked our CEO, Stan Risen, with the blessing of my fellow Supervisors, to send to Mayor Marsh in reply to his recent challenge to the county regarding Wood Colony.”
In response to Supervisor Withrow’s request to Stanislaus County CEO Risen, Mr. Risen sent a letter to interim City Manager Jim Holgersson inviting the City of Modesto to enter into talks to reach agreement regarding a “No Growth Pledge” for Wood Colony. (Read the full text of the letter here)
Will The Momentum Continue?
A golden opportunity has arisen to preserve Wood Colony. An agreement would mark the first time in Stanislaus County history that an area zoned for agriculture would be formally protected from urban development.
An agreement could set a precedent for future agreements between Stanislaus County and the cities for comprehensive land use planning and protection of farm land.
The biggest obstacle will be the objections of urban growth advocates whose motto is “build out to the county line.” Undoubtedly, they will put forth numerous objections to any agreement. This will be the opportunity for our elected leaders to show the leadership the public has wanted for many years.
While these recent events are cause for optimism, until agreement is reached, the public should not begin to celebrate. Citizens need to encourage their elected leaders to get an agreement reached and signed. Both Mayor Garrad Marsh and Supervisor Terry Withrow deserve high praise for embracing the idea and starting the process.
The public is best served when government authorities work together in the spirit of cooperation for the good of the community.