Developer Gerry Kamilos gave a committee of mostly West Side residents an update on his PCCP West Park LLC proposal Wednesday morning, sparring occasionally with skeptics such as Stanislaus County Supervisor Jim DeMartini.
The Crows Landing Steering Committee hopes to give a recommendation on the project to supervisors in early April.
West Park is a 4,800-acre business and industrial park project that would be anchored by a short-haul railroad from the Port of Oakland to Crows Landing. The land is in and around the 1,524-acre former Crows Landing Naval Air Facility, owned by the county.
Topics at the meeting ranged from train conflicts with traffic in Patterson, to water supply and the level of West Side support.
Patterson City Manager Cleve Morris said the city's three major concerns are air quality, traffic and the project's size.
"Those issues haven't been answered," he said.
Kamilos said his economic analysis of the project includes $40 million to separate trains and vehicle traffic at Las Palmas Avenue and $30 million for an overpass at Highway 33.
Both separations wouldn't be built until the later stages of the 30-year project, when six round-trip trains a day are operating, Kamilos said.
Morris said Patterson officials would like to see the grade separations earlier and added that he wasn't sure how the separations would work without disrupting Patterson's historic center circle.
The air quality debate centers on traffic. Patterson officials say the additional trucks in and out of West Park and the added trains will increase pollution.
"Everything that comes off of a train will be put on a truck on the West Side," said Levurn Berberia, a committee member from Crows Landing.
West Park proponents argue that removing thousands of truck trips over the Altamont Pass and shortening the commute for up to 37,000 workers will benefit air quality throughout the valley.
Committee member Earl Perez questioned the project's water supply.
Kamilos said the goal is to create a water supply that doesn't interfere with farming. One option is a storage system that would recharge the ground water aquifer in the winter, when farmers don't need water, Kamilos said.
All those issues will be addressed in greater detail if the project is approved by the county board, Kamilos said. An environmental report will be required, with more public meetings, he said.
"The board's decision in April, whether up or down, really is a decision to move the project to the next step, not to build it," Kamilos said.
A vote of approval would trigger another round of studies and analyses with public hearings before the board voted again to authorize construction, he said.
Business park tenants face Mello-Roos fees
Other details Kamilos discussed included:
The project will generate $22 million in school fees for the Crows Landing school district without directly generating any students.
West Park will provide $12 million to bring water and sewer service to the community of Crows Landing, which was one of the county's requirements.
West Park will provide a fully equipped fire station for the West Stanislaus Fire District, to assure quick response times for West Park tenants and the community. Annual operation of the station could cost upward of $1 million, which West Park would pay.
The project would use Mello-Roos bonds to fund infrastructure improvements, which would be paid off with assessments against tenants as the business park was occupied.
The level of support for the project, or lack of it, was the subject of a debate between Supervisors DeMartini and Dick Monteith. The pair form an ad hoc committee of the Board of Supervisors that is negotiating with Kamilos on a master developer's agreement.
"Support on the West Side is next to nothing," DeMartini said. "I've been walking precincts, and I don't see any realistic support for the project. There is none."
A vehement opponent of the project, DeMar- tini added, "If the board wants to go for a 5,000-acre project with trains running through Patterson and a container yard in Crows Landing, I would ask, 'Is this the best we can do?' "
Monteith weighed potential for jobs
Monteith, an ardent West Park supporter, said he believes there is as much support as opposition to the project on the West Side, based on phone calls and e-mails he has received.
"I went for this project because it has the greatest potential for jobs," Monteith said. "It's ripped a lot of people out of their comfort zones. The projection is that we will have 1 million people in 2040. The growth is going to come whether we want it or not. We don't have a large jobs base presently to support that."
The steering committee will meet April 9 to hear a final presentation on the project from Kamilos and then vote on a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.
Although supervisors are scheduled to consider the project April 8, DeMartini said he thinks that meeting will be pushed back.
He's recommending it come after the California Transportation Commission decides whether to give West Park a $25 million grant to start the rail service. The commission is scheduled to meet April 9 and 10.
Bee staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2349.