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West Landing annexation OK'd by City Council
City officials gave their stamp of approval Monday to a plan that would ultimately take Ceres city limits to Ustick Road, and add 12,000 new residents as well as commercial, office and industrial space.

The West Landing project was triggered by property owners' plans to annex 960 acres on the west side to Ceres city limits. The 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.

The city has a policy that annexations will only be considered when the city has approved an areawide master plan that looks at land use, circulation, housing, infrastructure and public facilities and services.

The bulk of what's being planned includes:

• A housing mix of 293 acres, or 1,310 multi-family units and 2,325 single-family houses;

• 34 acres of regional commercial acres;

• 884,200 square feet of retail commercial;

• 383,910 square feet of office uses;

• 802,100 square feet of light industrial;

• 174 acres of county facilities that already exist at the corner of Crows Landing and Service roads.

• 47 acres of parkland;

• 16 acres for schools.

The project must be approved by LAFCO, the Local Agency Formation Commission. If approved, the property would likely start when the economy recovers and could take an estimated 20 years or longer to complete.

County leaders came to Monday's meeting prepared to battle the city over the issue of forcing development to pay for an estimated $13 million in road improvements to handle the traffic caused by development. Senior Planner Tom Westbrook assured county Supervisor Jim DeMartini and county Public Works Director Matt Machado that the city will to develop a fee mechanism that pay for improvements.

DeMartini went before the council saying that the project contained virtually no traffic mitigation measures for the county, especially for surrounding roads and 29 intersections which would be impacted. The city's environmental impact report details that "significant and unavoidable impacts" would occur at the intersections Carpenter/Whitmore, Crows Landing/Keyes, Carpenter/Hatch, Crows Landing/Seventh, and to Crows Landing Road and Whitmore Avenue east of Blaker Road. Without providing that relief to the county, he said, the project may reach LAFCO "dead on arrival."

"It is the county's contention that the residents of the (future) area must pay for the impacts upon the traffic," said DeMartini. He added that "it is unrealistic to expect the city of Modesto or Stanislaus County to mitigate development of a thousand acres here in Ceres."

Project proponent Dave Romano pledged that his group will come up with some kind of mechanism to fund the improvements required "that is fair and appropriate for all jurisdictions."

Also concerned about the proposed annexation and development is the Westport Fire District which would lose more property tax revenues to an encroaching Ceres. Westport Fire board chairman Dave Sundy Jr. said his department runs on about $130,000 per year and cannot afford to lose revenue.

The city has the option to detach the area from Westport Fire and share taxes to make the small rural district whole.

"It's a huge thing for Westport Fire Protection District," commented Sundy.

City leaders pledged to work with Westport, too, but said they have time to wait to see if a proposal to consolidate rural districts proceeds.

The project is being proposed by developer/ property owners G3 Enterprises, Rutland Properties and B.S. Boyle Jr. Limited Partnership.

Westbrook said issues between the county and Westport fire would have to be ironed out before the project gets a LAFCO hearing.