About a dozen-and-a-half Naraghi Lake-area homeowners spoke at Tuesday nights City Council meeting against a 170,000-square-foot shopping center proposed for northeast Modesto.
They said the center planned for the southwest corner of Sylvan Avenue and Oakdale Road would generate too much traffic and is not needed because of the tens of thousands of square feet of vacant retail and commercial space in east Modesto.
They also said they fear the center will draw tenants from nearby shopping centers, leading to more vacant retail space and the potential for blight.
Im totally against the size of this, said Jon Olson, a 25-year resident of the nearby neighborhood. We dont need it. I dont know where this is coming from. We dont want it.
After spending about three hours on the matter, council members voted 5-2 to postpone a decision until their Jan. 7 meeting to give staff time to review new information presented by the projects opponents Tuesday.
Councilmen Dave Cogdill Jr. and Bill Zoslocki voted against the postponement.
Berberian Holdings plans to build The Marketplace on 18 acres at Oakdale and Sylvan. The center would be anchored by a 51,730-square-foot grocery store.
A Save Mart Supermarkets official has said the grocery chain has interest in the location, but provided no further information.
Project engineer Dave Romano has said construction could start in 2014 if the council approves the project.
The 18 acres sought for the project consists of a 10-acre parcel near Oakdale and Sylvan and an eight-acre parcel closer to the homeowners.
Some homeowners said they felt as though they had been duped because they were told when they bought their homes in the 1980s that a shopping center was planned for the 10 acres but that town homes would be built on the eight acres.
Ripon attorney Thomas Terpstra, who represents the Naraghi Lake Neighborhood Preservation Association, told council members that the project is not consistent with the citys general plan.
He said the city has understated the negative impacts the center would have while overstating its benefits.
Romano told council members he understands that change can be difficult, but insisted that Berberian Holdings has extensive experience as a commercial developer.
He added that the developer has spent about three years on the project and has met extensively with the homeowners to address their concerns. He said many homeowners are in favor of the shopping center.
The project was delayed for about a year so a more extensive environmental review could be conducted to address homeowners concerns.
Romano and the shopping centers leasing agent said its normal to have vacant retail and commercial property and that those properties eventually will be occupied by new tenants.
For instance, they said, Hobby Lobby now operates in the building that once housed a Mervyns department store. And the Burlington Coat Factory operates in the building that once was occupied by Montgomery Ward.
Romano said east Modesto would benefit from The Marketplace.
Its a great project at a great location, he told council members.
In other action, the council:
• Approved the hiring of two managers on a part-time basis after they retire.
Steve Lumpkin will continue as interim director of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods after he retires Dec. 16.
Utility Planning and Projects Director Richard Ulm will work as a city consultant after he retires Dec. 30.
• Rejected a $1 million federal grant that would have helped pay for doubling the number of school resource officers at Modesto high schools from four to eight because staff said the grant would require the Modesto Police Department to maintain staffing levels it could not afford and limit its flexibility in how it assigns its officers.
• Approved letters of support for the regulation and cultivation of industrial hemp for medicinal purposes. The letters will be sent to U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Jeff Denham.
Pending federal legislation would legalize hemp production in states where it is permitted. California allows for the production of industrial hemp products but only if the federal government enacts similar legislation.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2316.