SALIDA — Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh outlined his annexation plans Tuesday evening to a room full of vocal Salida residents who were there to express their opposition to becoming part of Modesto.
More than 200 people attended the Salida Municipal Advisory Council's two-hour meeting at the Sa-lida library, many of them holding "No Salida Annex" signs.
MAC board member Brad Johnson asked the audience how many did not favor annexation; almost everyone raised his or her hand. About a dozen Salidans raised their hands when asked if they were not sure.
Residents proceeded to vent their animosity toward Modesto, prompting Marsh to plead for time to outline his proposals.
Marsh told of family connections to Salida his grandfather farmed in the area and was president of the Bank of Salida, and his wife attended Salida Elementary School. He reminded the audience that he was a leader in farmland preservation.
Marsh said county leaders sold out Salida in approving the Salida Now plan in 2007, giving developers long-term rights to build thousands of homes. "On a 3-2 vote, they sold you out to LA and Bay Area developers and they own your future," Marsh said.
The mayor said he wants to remove housing from the plan, which he said threatens to triple the traffic and smog for Salida. He assured the audience, "we will not start an annexation process without giving you a vote."
Marsh spent the rest of the meeting listening to complaints from Sa-lidans, who made it clear they want no part of Modesto.
Debbie Dyk was among speakers who doubted that Modesto could improve law enforcement, given the homicides and crime in the county's largest city.
"Before you take on our town, you need to clean up your town," she said, stirring applause from the crowd.
Another speaker charged that Modesto's budget is out of whack, so the city is trying to grab prime real estate in Salida to pull in revenue.
Salida MAC board member Katherine Borges said holding an advisory vote would be meaningless. "The minute they petition (the Local Agency Formation Commission), we only need (signatures from) 50 percent of voters to kill it permanently," Borges said.
Borges said she intended to form a committee to work on incorporating Salida as a city.
Resident Sean Howard said if Salida gains autonomy, it should consider a name change. Salida is a Spanish word for "exit," and he feels residents could come up with a better name.
Some city leaders want Modesto to spur development of business parks in the 3,300-acre Salida Now plan, approved by the county in 2007. The possible annexation would involve a city-county tax- sharing deal.
Modesto would take over responsibility for law enforcement and other public services in the unincorporated community of 13,700.
At the start of the meeting, County Supervisor Terry Withrow said he was disturbed by unconfirmed reports that a draft of a fiscal study on the annexation was given to board members with the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance.
He handed copies of the incomplete study to members of a committee that will analyze it.
Despite the rowdy gathering, Withrow said officials intend to continue exploring the annexation. A next step will be town hall meetings to present information in the $60,000 fiscal study.
Withrow has said the county lacks funds to pay for basic improvements for the industrial areas planned along Kiernan Avenue and Sisk Road. The Salida Now plan was designed so that fees on 4,500 homes would bankroll improvements for shovel-ready sites in the business parks.
Marsh said the city would not move forward with the annexation process if Salidans clearly reject the proposal at the ballot box. The city still could proceed if it's a toss-up, he said.
A primary aim is to bring jobs to business parks around Gregori High School, he stressed. "Your future is jobs in this area," Marsh said. "Blue Diamond did not look at Salida or Modesto because there is no land."
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2321.