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City hires law firm to defend West Landing annexation
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The Ceres City Council hired an Oakland law firm Monday to defend the recent approval of the West Landing Annexation.

The city is turning to Meyes/Nave - the same firm that is representing the city in the Walmart Supercenter challenge - to defend the city and LAFCO approval of the West Landing annexation. A legal challenge to the project has been filed by Protect Agricultural Lands (PAL), said City Attorney Mike Lyions. The suit is challenging the annexation approval and the environmental review of the master plan. The firm will be representing the city as well as LAFCO. Lyions said the city is duty bound to endemnify LAFCO in defending the action but the city requires the developer to pay all costs of legal representation.

City officials believe the suit is attempting to hold the project to county plans for a more stringent policy regarding agricultural preservation relating to annexations. The matter will be taken up by LAFCO on May 23.

Both the city of Ceres and the Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) have approved the massive annexation of 960 acres to the western edge of Ceres.

LAFCO approved the annexation after a last-minute deal between the city to make the Westport Fire Protection District whole. The small rural fire agency said it needed the tax-sharing deal to keep its meager $122,650 annual budget intact.

The annexation, proposed by developer/ property owners G3 Enterprises, Rutland Properties and B.S. Boyle Jr. Limited Partnership, will detach 960 acres from the county and add to the Ceres city limits for development. The action removes the property from the Westport district. Typically the new jurisdiction takes the tax revenue but LAFCO wanted Ceres to share some of it to keep Westport operational.

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 master plan calls for a housing mix of 293 acres, or 1,310 multi-family units and 2,325 single-family houses as well as 34 acres of regional commercial acres. 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 as well as the Stanislaus County government complex.

In other actions at Monday's meeting, the council approved a consent calendar that:

• Approved a lot line adjustment for E.R. Vine & Sons property located at 2825 Railroad Avenue. The adjustment is needed so the business may erect six 10,000 gallon aboveground oil storage tanks

• Amended a consulting contract with North Star Engineering Group to design a new well at Smyrna Park. The original contract of $165,000 was to design one well but the city feels two wells would work better and $14,575 in additional contract work is needed.

• Extended by one year a contract for janitorial service with Commercial Cleaning Systems for the Ceres Community Center. The firm charges the city $42,564 annually;

• Awards a contract to Teichert Construction for the Mitchell Road overlay with a 10 percent contingency. The contract pays Teichert $730,911 with a 10 percent contingency.

• Endorses a plan for a new formula on which the city's share of LAFCO expenses is based on assessed value. In Ceres, case the contribution to support LAFCO would be about $15,948 annually.

• Accepts the subdivision improvements for Dow Ranch #2 subdivision.

The council also heard from Lupin Lane resident David Patton who said he would be fighting against the county raising the tipping fees at the landfill. Patton said tipping fee increases usually results in "more garbage along the roads...because some places charge an arm and a leg to get rid of mattreses. It don't affect the rich. All these taxes and fees are for the poor and middle."