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Westport, city at odds over annexation mitigation measures
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Ceres city officials have offered a "make whole" plan available to Westport Fire Protection District that would prevent the rural agency from losing crucial tax revenue if the West Landing annexation is approved.

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.

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 - it must first be approved by LAFCO - the city of Ceres expects to 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.

Ceres Senior Planner Tom Westbrook said the Westport board had not indicated it would agree to the funding plan.

Vice Mayor Ken Lane accused the Westport board of engaging in "try to get all you can, if you will, out of this." Lane supposed the plan.

Mayor Chris Vierra said he attended meetings between city staff and Westport fire commissioners. He expressed frustration with Westport and said a "common theme" that occurred in all the meetings was "this was a moving target and the definition of 'keeping one whole' meant keep giving more."

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

"Now we find out in the 12th hour that it's not good enough," said Vierra. "Either that body doesn't know what they want or they don't want to make a decision. I can sit before you here and tell you that the city has offered fair and beyond equitable arrangement with Westport. It leads me to believe they don't want to make a decision or there is another agenda."

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.

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.