Denny Jackman: Force cities to save Stanislaus County’s best farmland

07/28/2014 4:44 PM

07/28/2014 4:45 PM

State law grants similar land-use authority to our nine incorporated cities and to Stanislaus County.

When a citizen wants to petition the government to protect the best farmland the world has ever known, it has to be done 10 times! That’s why we need local elected officials to step up to the plate.

In 2008, a supermajority of voters directed housing development into our cities under “Stamp Out Sprawl – Stanislaus.”

Today, “Stamp Out Sprawl – Modesto” is taking on our biggest city. Why? Because directing and managing urbanization away from our best soils is in the best interest of all of us.

For many of us long-term Modesto folks, it was a shock to witness the results of the Jan. 28 Modesto City Council meeting. Previous Planning Commission meetings and citizen input indicated that a smaller General Plan for Modesto was likely. Instead, today’s MCC plan touts a bigger city, including Salida and parts of Wood Colony, about twice the city’s size today! Go figure.

The “SOS – Modesto” petition creates a land-use “budget” to help Modesto grow up, figuratively and literally. Our best soils are north and west of the city. Our superior water recharge area is north of Pelandale, nearly the entire stretch of land from Salida to Riverbank. Thus, a long-term goal of SOS is for Stanislaus County, Modesto and Riverbank to stop the madness of sprawl.

It would be good if Riverbank Mayor Richard O’Brien carries through an urban limit at Coffee Road on the west side of his city. Then, as Modesto voters adopt Kiernan Avenue as the northern limit line, all we need is for Stanislaus County supervisors to keep the area ag. They could create an Agricultural Investment Zone by not allowing changes to ag zoning.

Sounds simple enough, right?

Let’s plan for ag! Let’s not repeat the boom-and-bust cycles that turned so many prime farmland acres into houses, then turned the houses upside down!

We want a community that is ag and urban – one that is at the top of lists, not of foreclosures and poverty, but of efficiency and creativity. We want a community with passion of the heart and productive use of human and natural resources.

We are in this together. We must have air, water, food. In that order, always.

– Denny Jackman,

land-use activist and former Modesto city councilman

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