Last week, the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors and Modesto City Council both approved funding for a fiscal feasibility study on annexing the county's largest unincorporated town, Salida, into the city of Modesto.
This isn't the first time Modesto has explored annexing Salida. In 1996, the Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission, an independent agency that determines city boundaries, rejected the portion of former Modesto Mayor Dick Lang's 30-year growth plan that included annexing Salida.
Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow, whose District 3 includes Salida, broached the subject of Salida's annexation to Modesto in a guest editorial ("A new plan for Salida: Annex it to Modesto") published Aug. 21, 2011, in The Bee.
Withrow's suggestion came in response to the "Salida Now" plan, a 2007 developer-authored growth plan that was initially scheduled to be voted on by Salida residents. In an unexpected move, the county supervisors pre- empted the vote, adopting the plan by a 3-2 margin.
Then-District 3 Supervisor Jeff Grover acknowledged that Measure E, a slow- growth farmland protection initiative called "SOS (Stamp Out Sprawl)," was the impetus for the board's action. In a story in the Aug. 29, 2007, California Planning and Development Report, Grover said the growth plan "is exactly what we've been working on and exactly what we've been planning in Salida."
The plan called for about 5,000 new homes, with developer fees paid by homebuyers that would in turn fund commercial development on 100 acres. The plan even included $150,000 for an incorporation feasibility study for Salida. But with the economic downturn, the new homes never materialized. That, in turn, stalled the commercial development.
Withrow inherited Salida Now, which is now referred to as the Salida Community Plan.
He said, "The goal (of annexation) would be to jump-start the business park and create jobs." Annexation of Salida by the city of Modesto could cover the commercial infrastructure need. Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh shared support for the idea in his State of the City speech in March and at his recent town hall meeting at Beyer High School. An ironic twist is that Marsh was a co-author of the SOS initiative the opposing initiative to the plan he now embraces.
The financial study should be complete in about 60 days. After that, a town hall meeting should be held regarding the issue. Only time will tell whether Salida staves off annexation once again or whether this spells the end for the 142-year-old Stanislaus County community.
Borges is a member of the Salida Municipal Advisory Council, which advises the Board of Supervisors on issues regarding the community.