MODESTO — On April 23, the Modesto City Council is scheduled to consider a new planning tool called a Residential Urban Limit (RUL).
Like the Stamp Out Sprawl Initiative, Measure E, that was supported by a supermajority of Stanislaus County voters in 2008, the RUL does not impact industrial or commercial development zoning. The RUL I propose would take advantage of Modesto's place on the map, literally. Modesto has prime farmlands west and north, Ceres to the south, and poorer soils to the east. Modesto's most significant water recharge area is also north.
The RUL I submitted recommends these boundaries beyond which no residential development under 10 dwelling units per acre could occur without a majority public vote:
Bounded on the north by Pelandale and Claratina expressways east to Oakdale Road;
On the west by an extension of Morse Road;
On the south by Whitmore Avenue west of Highway 99 and the Tuolumne River east of Highway 99
On the east at Church Street ending at Dry Creek.
This policy does not apply east of Oakdale Road north of Dry Creek.
The RUL is not a cure-all for the protection of our best soils. However, it allows our city representatives to direct housing development, a major sprawl component, away from our best farmland, and prevent housing from taking away the best areas for job generators that may come from industrial or commercial development. This is particularly important along the Highway 99 and Kiernan Road corridors.
OK. Then what?
When will we ever recognize agriculture as our top industry in our planning process? When will we plan for ag?
The same way you eat an elephant one bite at a time!
We protect farmland by directing housing into cities (Measure E). We have one of the strongest ag elements in our Stanislaus County general plan. Our Stanislaus LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) has adopted stringent requirements for cities to meet before they can expand their urban footprint.
And, Modesto citizens have been paying attention and advisory voting using Measure A (1979) and Measure M (1997) to direct development.
We have been an ag-urban community for many years. We are evolving and working toward resolution of human interest. From the day we are born we all have exactly the same top three requirements in order: We must have clean air, quality water and healthy food. We live in a place that historically knows a little bit about the last.
It is up to us to design our future. Yet, we must all follow certain rules.
Jackman is a farmland protection advocate and former Modesto City Council member.