MODESTO — Residents of the historic farming community of Wood Colony turned out in force Saturday to talk about fighting a city of Modesto proposal to annex the area for a business-industrial park.
About 350 residents of the historic Wood Colony farming community northwest of Modesto packed the Hart-Ransom School gymnasium Saturday morning to learn about draft changes to Modestos general plan designating the area a business-industrial zone. The proposal comes before the Modesto City Council on Tuesday.
Speakers called the draft changes a land grab, pursued by the city to gain freeway frontage for industry, commuter homes and strip malls.
Casting the battle as one to honor history and preserve a way of life, Wood Colony resident Paul Wenger said, Its about values, family and community. The change would not bring jobs, he predicted, just more residential sprawl.
You dont build a sustainable community by destroying the best example of one in Stanislaus County, he said.
Maybe some people value a dollar more than things you cant put a dollar sign on, Wenger said to widespread applause.
Plans to remake Highway 132-Maze Boulevard as a major corridor will drive Modestos zoning decisions, predicted Scott Calkins.
Its all about developing this area, he said. If you allow 132 to go forward through your community, your participation in (the general plan process) means very little. Theyll be back.
There are empty properties all around Stanislaus County But we need to build out here? asked dairy owner Pete Verburg, who came to the area from Southern California. I was the last dairy to leave Torrance, Verburg said, urging residents not to let the same thing happen here. Im totally against this crazy deal and Ill do everything I can to fight it.
The change would affect about 220 parcels of land, potentially removing a quarter of the students within the Hart-Ransom Union School District borders, said school board President Rich Fultz. The district also serves a high number of students from other districts, who come for the pleasant country setting and would likely leave if industry moved in, he said.
If this misguided attempt to change paradise were to go through, the school would not be the same, said Hart-Ransom Superintendent Ream Lochry.
Salida Municipal Advisory Committee Chairwoman Katherine Borges shared expertise from Salidas challenge to Modesto annexation plans. She urged residents to put up signs and lobby City Council members and county supervisors. If the city moves ahead, a petition drive could allow voters to block the change, she said.
It looks like this huge David-and-Goliath fight, Borges said, but added she believed Wood Colony could prevail if people organize. Salida cant save you. You have to save yourself, she said.