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Developer of former air base woos West Side with letter

West Side residents received a two-page letter from developer Gerry Kamilos this week, asking them to join in a "frank dialogue" about his plans for the former Crows Landing air base.

The letters were mailed starting Friday to about 10,000 households in Patterson, Newman, Westley and Crows Landing.

"As an engineer, I live my life seeking facts. You probably do as well. We are still very early in the planning process, and there is a long way to go," Kamilos wrote.

The letter describes his vision for the 4,560-acre project and reiterates his pledge to the Patterson City Council last month not to build housing. A comment card with prepaid postage was enclosed, encouraging residents to submit questions or remarks.

Kamilos' firm, PCCP West Park, is negotiating with Stanislaus County to turn the 1,527-acre former Crows Landing Naval Air Station into an industrial center with a rail line connected to the Port of Oakland.

Kamilos said Wednesday that the letters are the first in a series his office plans to send to West Side residents.

Other mailers will address "frequently asked questions" about the Crows Landing project, and invite residents to participate in town hall meetings.

"There are a lot of folks running around with misinformation or speculation instead of listening to the facts," Kamilos said.

He added: "When we are able to put things in black and white and put our names on it and say this is the fact, we are bound by it. People can take the information we provide and hold us to it."

A few Patterson residents who have been publicly opposed to the project said Tuesday that they had heard about the letter but hadn't received a copy. They said they wondered if their names had been purposefully removed from the mailing list.

That's not the case, Kamilos said. All registered voters and residential addresses west of the San Joaquin River should receive a letter. Those who haven't received one may contact his office for a copy, he said.

Beyond scope of panel's request

County Supervisor Jim DeMartini said the ad hoc committee overseeing negotiations asked Kamilos to hold public meetings.

But sending out thousands of letters goes beyond the scope of what's required, he said.

"It is very unusual for a developer to do that. But he's got a project that's unpopular on the West Side, so he's trying to draw some support for it," DeMartini said.

The effort is probably "pretty futile" on the West Side of the county, DeMartini said, where "99 out of 100" residents disapprove of or distrust the project.

"Sending out letters is something he's used to doing, but getting support is another matter. It is about as popular as the landfill," DeMartini said.

Kamilos said it is not the first time he's mailed letters to people affected by one of his firm's projects. He was unable to estimate the cost of the mailers, but said the postage and printing "wasn't inexpensive."

"From our standpoint, it is the best way to communicate and really create an open and transparent process," Kamilos said.

Bee staff writer Christina Salerno can be reached at csalerno@modbee.com or 238-4574.

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