PATTERSON -- Although it's far from immune to the economic slump that continues to plague the area, this city on Stanislaus County's West Side has a problem some of its counterparts wouldn't mind: It's running out of available industrial land.
City officials are considering annexing and adding more than 1,100 acres of land now used to farm peaches and apricots and gearing it toward light industry and commercial uses. The City Council held the first of two special meetings Monday to discuss expansion of the West Patterson Business Park.
"We're getting to a point now where there aren't that many large parcels left," City Manager Rod Butler said. "A lot of these businesses coming now are looking for these big chunks of land."
It will take a lot more than the City Council approving the plan for it to move forward. The project area isn't in the city limit, so the Local Agency Formation Commission would have to approve its annexation into Patterson. If approved, the city would grow significantly, from 5.95 square miles to roughly 7.69 square miles.
Another possible sticking point is the amount the city would charge the developers Jeffrey E. Arambel and KDN Enterprises for infrastructure improvements necessary for the project. A staff report suggests the city seek more than $139 million in development fees. The developers don't agree.
"We're really not that far off," Jim Hollowell, who represents Arambel, told the council Monday night. "We're going to be in the same game."
Both sides said there is room for negotiation on the fees, and some other contributions from the applicants such as land for a police and fire station can go toward offsetting some of those charges.
Council members disagreed with one recommendation from the city's Planning Commission, which advised approval of the project earlier this month. Commissioners sought land for a sports complex, but council members would rather see that go to a health center.
Councilman Dominic Farinha said the sports complex is a good idea but it should come from a residential development. "We have the necessity for land for a major medical complex," he said, pointing out that the region lacks a full-service hospital. "If we don't make the right decisions today, we are going to eclipse ourselves."
The city has good reason to expand its industrial park: It has landed distribution centers for a number of large companies, including Grainger, Kohl's, CVS and, most recently, Amazon. The city's Central California location and easy access to Interstate 5 make it attractive. Internet retail giant Amazon is building a 1 million-square-foot distribution center in West Ridge Business Park.
"With the unemployment in this area, I think it's imperative ... to try to bring jobs to this area," Councilwoman Deborah Novelli said.
Mayor Luis Molina agreed, to a point. "We need to strike a balance, without giving away the farm no pun intended," he said. "It's important that we strike while the iron is hot and be smart about it."
No action was planned Monday; a second meeting is tentatively set next Monday, when the council likely will be scheduled to act on the matter.
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2343.