As the hour grew later, maybe minds on the Modesto City Council grew fuzzier. How else to explain the council’s 5-2 vote to begin the process of forcing Wood Colony to join a city they want no part of?
The vote to include Wood Colony on Modesto’s general plan update angered the overwhelming majority of those still in the chamber after a packed, seven-hour council meeting.
This controversy started with a Modesto Chamber of Commerce committee that determined that the 1,800 acres of pristine farms alongside highways 99 and 132 would be perfect for business parks. When divulged, that sparked an immediate backlash as residents organized to fight.
They polled every household, and found that 92 percent of the residents – many of them descendants of the colony’s first farmers 100 years ago – wanted no part of being part of Modesto. They organized, put up signs, wrote letters to the editor, printed T-shirts and on Tuesday night filled the council chamber.
Many cheered as two council members backed away from their previous defense of the chamber’s plan.
“I can’t support adding Wood Colony to the general plan,” said Councilman Dave Lopez early in the discussion, provoking applause. He was one of the “no” votes in the final tally.
“Maybe Wood Colony is not in the general plan,” said Councilman Bill Zoslocki, a developer who also voted no.
But Mayor Garrad Marsh and council members Tony Madrigal, John Gunderson, Dave Cogdill Jr. and Jenny Kenoyer opted to include Wood Colony in the plan with the stipulation that 1,300 acres be designated for ag. Apparently the council felt it was giving residents some sort of reassurance.
If that designation holds up, then the chamber’s committee won’t get what it wants, either. At least not yet.
As Lopez pointed out, inclusion of Wood Colony on the plan leaves the door open to future councils to change that ag designation.
Being in the general plan won’t have an immediate impact, other than infuriating residents. City staff will study the area and prepare an environmental impact report for consideration in 2015. Eventually, Modesto could move to annex the “ag land” into the city. If successful, which is doubtful, any subsequent changes would become a zoning matter.
But that’s many battles into the future.
If council members were too busy to count, we’ll note that there were more than 300 people at Tuesday night’s meeting. The overwhelming majority are adamantly opposed to joining Modesto. Now, they’re adamantly opposed to the council members who they perceive are threatening their way of life.
People whose families have lived on and worked the same farms for more than a century will not simply shrug and go away. They’ll do as they always have; dig a little deeper, grow a little stronger. We doubt this fight is over.