Stamp Out Sprawl alternative on ballot? Board must decide

October 30, 2007 

Growth measure II: The anti-Stamp Out Sprawl measure will be considered by the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors this morning.

The supervisors are set to decide whether the "Stanislaus County Responsible Planning and Growth Control Initiative" should be put on the Feb. 5 ballot.

County staff put together the ballot measure as an alternative to Measure E, the Stamp Out Sprawl initiative. Measure E, which garnered more than 16,000 voter signatures, will appear on the February ballot.

Written by Modesto City Councilman Garrad Marsh and former Councilman Denny Jackman, Measure E would prohibit the county from converting farmland for residential uses in unincorporated areas without a countywide vote.

County officials oppose Measure E, saying it does little to stop sprawl in urban areas, where most growth occurs; encourages "ballot box planning" with a "yes" or "no" vote on complicated land use issues; and promotes developer-driven planning with expensive campaigns to approve rezoning votes.

The county alternative calls for the development of a new general plan drawn up by a 15-member commission appointed by the Board of Supervisors.

The general plan work would cost $1.6 million to $2 million for consultants and the environmental review required, money the county will have to spend one way or another for a new general plan. The current plan dates to 1994.

The commission would have broad representation, including agriculture, business and manufacturing, environmental groups, developers and community groups, according to a staff report.

The commission would consider policies to encourage cities to adopt boundaries and buffers to carve out community identities; to direct growth to less productive farmland; and to include mitigation measures for lost farmland. Other policies the commission would consider include discouraging urban sprawl, minimizing impacts to agriculture, encouraging economic development and ensuring that growth pays its way.

The general plan would be submitted to voters within two years. If voters rejected it, the Board of Supervisors would revise it and resubmit it to the voters. If it were rejected again, the board could adopt a revised plan without public approval.

Once in place, the general plan could be amended only after two public hearings and a four-fifths vote of the Board of Supervisors.

"The Responsible Planning and Growth Control Initiative has similar objectives as Measure E, such as an emphasis on farmland conservation and growth control, but provides an alternate and comprehensive approach to achieve those results," the county staff report says.

Measure E co-author Denny Jackman commented earlier this month that the Board of Supervisors lacks credibility on preserving farmland because of members' approval of the Salida Now plan.

The Salida plan would build a retail, industrial and residential development on 3,383 acres north, east and west of Salida. Proponents of the plan had gathered enough signatures to put it on a countywide ballot, but the Board of Supervisors approved the plan without a public vote.

The Board of Supervisors will meet at 9 a.m. today in the basement chambers at 1010 10th St., Modesto.

Bee staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at tmoran@modbee.com or 578-2349.

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