Modesto News

Modesto News: City needs bigger vision for its future, councilman says

kvaline@modbee.comJanuary 16, 2014 

Councilman Dave Cogdill thinks Modesto needs to make the difficult decision to spend as much as $1.5 million for a comprehensive update to its general plan and abandon what he considers its piecemeal approach to planning what the city should look like in the coming decades.

He knows this could be a hard sell among his council colleagues because of the city’s budget constraints. But he believes it’s a decision that will best serve Modesto and its residents. “I think it’s important enough for the city’s future to spend the money and do it one time and do it right,” he said.

Cogdill will advocate his approach at council members’ Jan. 28 meeting, when they are expected to vote on whether to move forward with amending the land-use and transportation components of the general plan, which serves as the blueprint for how Modesto will grow and develop.

Cogdill said that in the past two years, the city has grappled with a series of issues critical to its future and has dealt with them in a piecemeal – rather than comprehensive – approach. They include:

• Determining Modesto’s relationship with Salida, its unincorporated neighbor of more than 13,000 residents to the northwest. Should Modesto keep Salida in its general plan or remove it? Mayor Garrad Marsh’s attempts to explore annexing Salida have met with fierce resistance from Salida residents.

• Establishing a boundary for residential growth. The city will have a measure on the November 2015 ballot on establishing such a limit line. Cogdill said without such a boundary, he fears the city will revert to its old habits and “pave everything over with housing” once the real estate market heats up again.

• Striking a balance between preserving prime farmland while setting aside enough land near major transportation corridors for business and industrial parks. This issue has taken center stage in the amending of the general plan. The city proposes designating hundreds more acres for development in Wood Colony, the close-knit farming community west of Highway 99. Colony residents have turned out in scores at council meetings to protest.

• Determining Modesto’s future east of its city limit. Should housing be built there? If so, what kind and how far east?

Modesto is considering Wood Colony for development because of its proximity to the highway. Advocates of the proposal say it’s critical to build industrial parks close to major transportation corridors.

But Cogdill expects Stanislaus County will make a strong push to get a road tax on the November ballot, and that’s another reason to take a big-picture look at growth. The passage of such a tax could lessen the need to place business and industrial parks along the highway because there would be money for transportation corridors linking other parts of the city and the county to Highway 99.

He said comprehensive, long-term planning is key to Modesto diversifying its economy and bringing in well-paying jobs. Cogdill said that without such planning, Modesto would face more of its recent past – being a bedroom community of the Bay Area.

City staff has told him it would cost $1 million to $1.5 million for a comprehensive general plan update – which would be the city’s first one since 1995 – and take about two years to complete, Cogdill said. He believes the city can find the money for the update and the city will more than recoup its investment.

“This is about Modesto’s future,” he said.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or (209) 578-2316.

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