Mayors of Stanislaus County’s nine cities will reconvene July 8 to resolve the divisive question of removing one of their own from a regional growth-guiding panel.
Meanwhile, some members of the panel – the Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission – want to look into accusations by some farmers who say the Oakdale Irrigation District deceived LAFCO to win annexation approval for an almond conglomerate two years ago.
The mayors two weeks ago delayed deciding whether to oust Hughson Mayor Matt Beekman from LAFCO because he voted in March to amend a farmland preservation policy opposed by a majority of mayors. After a lengthy and emotional hearing in Turlock, where most audience members defended Beekman, the mayors opted for time to mend broken fences.
The mayors’ committee will gather at 6 p.m. July 8 in the council chamber in Newman, 938 Fresno St.
On Wednesday, LAFCO commissioners heard complaints of some Oakdale farmers upset that OID is providing water to Trinitas Farming despite the drought. Its 7,234 acres east of Oakdale were annexed to OID services in 2013 when LAFCO was assured that doing so would not harm OID’s existing customers.
The drought is forcing OID to limit water deliveries for the first time in its 105-year history, yet the board agreed to give Trinitas, and another new customer’s 812 acres, a third of the amount going to established customers. Some have circulated petitions, saying they and LAFCO were deceived two years ago by a bait-and-switch strategy that will force longtime customers – not Trinitas – to pump extra groundwater.
This morning, three LAFCO members said the farmers could have reason to be angry.
“LAFCO was told (in 2013) that Trinitas was in second position and would not get any water till everyone else was satisfied,” said County Supervisor Jim DeMartini, a farmer himself. “I don’t think we would have passed it,” he added, if the panel had known that terms would be changed.
“Those (farmers) raised some good issues,” agreed County Supervisor Terry Withrow, who was not on LAFCO in 2013, but is now. He asked that LAFCO staff get OID’s side of the story.
On the other hand, keeping water in this area is better than selling it to wealthy out-of-county buyers, as was OID’s practice before the drought, Beekman and DeMartini said.
The issue could become important because OID could approach LAFCO with more annexation requests in a few months. OID board approval, expected in June, to absorb 1,069 acres would prompt environmental studies and a formal request to LAFCO in the fall.
Beekman and DeMartini said LAFCO will pay extra attention to details of any such applications.
“It’s going to be a pretty hard sell, if they haven’t lived up to (terms of previous requests),” DeMartini said.
Also Wednesday, commissioners unanimously agreed to let Modesto extend a water pipe to a vacant parcel 500 feet north of the city limit, where Holy Family Catholic Church hopes to build a $15 million complex in a few years. The site is northeast of Tully Road and Bangs Avenue.
“That’s better than having to drill a well, and the area will be annexed eventually,” DeMartini said.
Garth Stapley: (209) 578-2390