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960-acre West Landing gets LAFCO hearing tonight
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City officials will be seeking annexation of 960 acres to the west side of Ceres at a special meeting set for 6 p.m. today.

The Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) will be meeting to decide the fate of West Landing annexation. The meeting is held in the basement of the County Administration Building, 1010 Tenth Street, Modesto.

The annexation, proposed by developer/ property owners G3 Enterprises, Rutland Properties and B.S. Boyle Jr. Limited Partnership, will soon seek permission to detach 960 acres from the county and added to the Ceres city limits for development on the west side. The action would also remove the property from the Westport district.

It's estimated that West Landing could result in the addition of 12,000 new residents in Ceres as well as beef up commercial, office and industrial space as far west to Ustick Road.

The annexation area is bounded by Whitmore Avenue to the north, Service Road to the south, the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to the east and Ustick Road on the west. The plan includes the annexation of the G3 plant - once was the Proctor & Gamble plant - as well as the Stanislaus County government complex.

If approved, the property would likely start when the economy recovers and could take an estimated 20 years or longer to complete.

The city made an agreement in October with the county to help make the new growth pay for impacts to a number of county roads and intersections. The city agreed to implement a fee that will generate an estimated $6.5 million for improvements for 29 intersections which will handle additional traffic to the project.

However, still up in the air is whether Westport Fire Protection District will sign onto a plan to keep Westport whole and protect from property tax revenue losses.

When the council approved the annexation in June, Westport Fire board chairman Dave Sundy Jr. said his department couldn't afford to lose one dollar of its $130,000 annual budget. The city crafted a plan to share $49,000 annually with Westport to offset property taxes from the 960 acres being diverted to the city.

If the annexation becomes a reality, the city of Ceres expects to initially gain $9,000 in property taxes and $21,000 in sales taxes.

As the area develops with new homes and businesses over two or more decades, the city plans to create a Community Facilities District (CFD) to help pay for city services, including police and fire services. The city anticipates that fee will be about $20 per home per year.

County Supervisor Jim DeMartini said he thinks an agreement can be ironed out between the city and LAFCO about its remedy for Westport. He called the city's offer, including an annual increase of two percent in revenues a fair deal.

Last year city officials had tough words for Westport's board. Vice Mayor Ken Lane accused the Westport board of engaging in "try to get all you can, if you will, out of this."

Mayor Chris Vierra insisted that the city's offering was "fair and equitable" and noted Westport officials initially bought into the plan as fair.