The Modesto City Council on Tuesday is expected to put an urban growth boundary on the November ballot and give its first of two approvals to a $367 million operating budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year, which starts July 1.
The Stamp Out Sprawl campaign gathered more than enough signatures to qualify its growth boundary for the ballot. The campaign was in large part a backlash to the council’s growth and land-use decisions, especially in regard to Wood Colony, the farming community west of Highway 99. The council has voted to include some of the colony in the city’s growth plans, to the dismay of many colony residents.
The campaign’s organizers include former councilman and farmland advocate Denny Jackman, Wood Colony farmer and Modesto Irrigation District board member Jake Wenger, and retired hydrologist Vance Kennedy. If voters pass the measure, it would require a citywide vote before residential, commercial and industrial development could take place beyond the boundary.
Stamp Out Sprawl calls for drawing an urban growth line around most of Modesto. The line would roughly follow Morse Road on the west, Kiernan Avenue-Claribel Road on the north and Whitmore Avenue and the Tuolumne River on the south. The line would be C-shaped and push growth to the east of Modesto along Claus Road, where the farmland is of lesser quality.
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It also would carve out about 1,000 acres for nonresidential development in north Modesto in an area bounded by Pirrone Road to the north, Dale Road to the east, Pelandale Avenue to the south, and Sisk Road and Highway 99 to the west.
The $367 million operating budget includes $113.6 million for the general fund, which often generates the most interest because it primarily pays for public safety. The city is proposing to balance the general fund by using less than $5 million in one-time money, which officials have said won’t be available next year.
Mayor Garrad Marsh has called for putting a half-percent general sales tax on the November ballot to be used primarily for public safety. He has warned that without more funding, Modesto faces public safety cuts in its 2016-17 budget. The council has two more regular meetings this month in which it could consider putting the tax on the ballot.
A general tax requires a simple majority to pass and can be used for any general government purpose. But supporters have said if a general tax is placed on the ballot, the city could create an oversight committee to monitor how the tax is spent.
Others have suggested Modesto seek a dedicated tax that by law could be used only for public safety. Such a tax requires approval by two-thirds of voters, and Marsh has said he does not believe such a tax would pass.
The council meets at 5:30 p.m. in the basement chambers of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St.