A small but influential group of Patterson people has formed to battle Gerry Kamilos' plan for a business park at the nearby Crows Landing air base with a rail link to the Port of Oakland.
"There will be a lot of money to be made by Kamilos if he can railroad this through, all at the expense of the West Side," reads a portion of the group's newly created Web site.
Its home page shows a circle with a line slashing over a picture of a train, with the words "the greatest threat to Patterson in its history."
Kamilos on Tuesday invited all input, including from critics, about his hopes of turning the former 1,527-acre air base into a 4,560-acre industrial center.
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The West Side-Patterson Alliance for Community and Environment, or WS-PACE, will collect signatures at the Patterson Apricot Fiesta this weekend, said spokesman Ron Swift, former publisher of the Patterson Irrigator.
"We're asking people to sign a petition showing their dissatisfaction with the plan," he said.
Kamilos' company, PCCP West Park, is three months into an exclusive yearlong period of negotiations with Stanislaus County leaders for a development master plan.
The first quarterly report is scheduled to go before Stanislaus County supervisors on Tuesday. WS-PACE members say they will introduce themselves at a Patterson City Council meeting the same day. The group plans to hold another public meeting in the council's chamber a week later.
The group has met informally every week for six weeks. No chairman has been named, though Carolyn Harr and Burta Herger have agreed to serve as secretary and treasurer, respectively. Other members include former Mayor David Keller, West Side activist and Modesto Bee community columnist Claude Delphia, former Postmaster Sandy McDowell and farmer Ed Maring.
Swift said the group's members may establish a political action committee, enabling them to contribute to candidates or causes opposing Kamilos' plan, or supporting those fighting him.
"We know we don't have the same firepower and funding as Kamilos," McDowell said.
Delphia added: "But we are not without resources. The feeling (among West Siders) is so strong, we'll not have trouble raising money."
Throngs of West Side residents had come out against the Kamilos plan before county supervisors in late February selected it over a competing proposal by the son of businessman and former presidential candidate H. Ross Perot.
WS-PACE members said they would be mollified if Kamilos would limit his development to the 1,527-acre air base, as first envisioned by county officials, and turn away from the rail component. They predict disruptive congestion from long trains passing through the city.
"(Kamilos') information has alarmed us," Swift said.
The development would be about the size of Patterson and Newman combined, noted the group, whose members met Tuesday with The Bee's Editorial Board.
WS-PACE members say the plan would gobble up prime farmland and create more air pollution.
"This will impact us probably more than anything has impacted the West Side," Swift said.
In another Tuesday meeting with The Bee, Kamilos emphasized that his plan does not include building homes.
"We have made a commitment; we are focused on jobs," he said. "We do not have a housing component."
Patterson City Council members two weeks ago said city staff will not cooperate with Kamilos by providing technical information unless he personally meets with the council. On Tuesday, Kamilos said he's eager to accept but has yet to receive an invitation.
As for the new group, Kamilos said, "We're actually encouraged. Whenever you get a group together in a forum to have more discussion, and both are willing to educate themselves on the issues, we see it as a positive for both sides."
A county staff report on his project, to be presented Tuesday, features a schedule for accomplishing key tasks, Kamilos said. They include completion of studies on traffic, water, sewage and drainage, as well as a market analysis, prediction of economic benefits to the community and an overall master plan.
"I'm convinced more than ever that all infrastructure issues can be resolved," Kamilos said.
Town hall meetings inviting public feedback will be scheduled around the county, including the West Side, during the summer, Kamilos said.
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Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2390.