Denny Jackman has tried for many years to get the leaders of Stanislaus County to use comprehensive planning to build a community where growth is orderly, affordable and livable, and where agriculture would be protected in perpetuity. I worked with him up until I left the Modesto City Council in 2003.
After disappointment in regional leaders’ ongoing failure to protect farmland, Mr. Jackman, Jake Wenger, and Vance Kennedy created the Stamp Out Sprawl initiative (SOS). Since they were unable to get the government to do its job, the people would do it through the ballot box. SOS has just been validated for the ballot by Modesto’s City Clerk and Council.
As I’ve previously indicated, passage of SOS may have unintended consequences, especially around Modesto and Salida. Without additional action before or after its passage, the measure will NOT protect Wood Colony from urban development and could open up land presently protected within Modesto’s sphere of influence.
If it passes, SOS would have to be the first of a series of measures needed to accomplish wise land use. SOS encourages local government to do its job or lose control of the process.
Time For Action
Stanislaus County recently offered to open a discussion with the City of Modesto on reaching an agreement to protect Wood Colony. If our elected leaders come together, SOS might not be needed. On the other hand, if policies such as “zoning for dollars” continue to dominate local politics, then the ballot box will be the best place to impose the will of the people.
The ability of local elected leaders to put together sound policies is underestimated. Historically, they’ve lacked the will to do so; SOS could compel a change in mood.
Ventura County Has Urban Limits
Ventura County has urban limit lines throughout the county. The lines were established over twenty years ago because the people and their leaders came together and agreed about what they wanted. Why can’t we?
In Stanislaus County, the lack of cooperation among the political jurisdictions has been so bad that when all of the County’s cities met during the early 2000s to create a “vision,” the end result was overlapping growth boundaries that would have destroyed agriculture. Each jurisdiction was afraid to make any concession in land use planning. Each city worried that another jurisdiction would gain advantages in economic development.
Perhaps the relations of the cities and county of Stanislaus have improved over the years, making mutual agreements possible.
News From the “Dark Side”
On Friday, August 22, 2014, I emailed Mayor Marsh about my concerns with possible unintended consequences of the Stamp Out Sprawl initiative. I said I would like to help write a ballot argument opposed to the initiative and that I would be willing to sign it.
Some have said the email shows I have gone over to the “Dark Side.” They have a right to their opinion. The message reflects my reservations about the initiative.
If Modesto is to avoid unintentional consequences of SOS, there must be a net gain for the entire area. That is, the County and Salida must be willing to make concessions to protect farm land in exchange for Modesto’s willingness to do the same.
Action by elected leaders could mitigate the need for SOS. If our leaders don’t unite to protect farmland, I will wholeheartedly support SOS. Key agreements are essential before the public vote. Absent any agreements, especially to protect Wood Colony from urban encroachment, I will join Denny Jackman, Jake Wenger, and Vance Kennedy in supporting SOS. Incremental taking of farm land around our cities has to stop. T
The Public Wants Leadership but May Have to Settle for SOS
The collective wisdom of voters is that agricultural lands need to be preserved for future generations.
All of Europe has urban limit lines. So does Ventura County. What is wrong with Stanislaus County’s leaders that they are unable to recognize our resource limitations? Why is a measure of last resort like SOS necessary?