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Growth plan to be delayed for review

A first-of-its-kind growth scenario covering all of Stanislaus County will wait at least an additional month to become official, planning leaders agreed Wednesday.

The delay will give officials with the county and its nine cities time to review the newly crafted, historic vision, watered down though it may be, before the Stanislaus Council of Governments meets again Nov. 12.

Six counties to the south, joined in a San Joaquin Valley-wide partnership, have produced their own countywide growth scenarios, all calling for higher home densities in hopes of curbing climate-changing emissions. They've waited months for Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties to do likewise before creating a valleywide vision in the Blueprint process.

Stanislaus leaders, some openly suspicious of state leadership and the idea that global warming can be slowed, previously frowned on a version featuring higher densities.

The new scenario they'll take to their respective city councils abandons progressive change, calling simply for construction to adhere to densities already cited in general plans of the 10 agencies. They range from 4.5 units per acre to 30, StanCOG's Vince Harris said.

"I think we want to be on record that we are concerned about proper planning and we are concerned about regional planning," said county Supervisor Jeff Grover, asserting that leaders have not abandoned the Blueprint process. Several had snickered moments earlier at the suggestion that the other counties would have to wait longer still for Stanislaus to produce its growth scenario.

The approved scenarios will satisfy one aspect of a new state law, Senate Bill 375, the only in the United States linking land-use decisions to climate change, California Senate consultant Bill Craven told Stanislaus leaders during a contentious discussion Wednesday.

He said state transportation money should favor sprawl-curbing projects that bring homes and jobs closer to each other. But any county not meeting its emissions goal would be allowed to create an alternative growth scenario, keeping the money flowing, Craven said.

Some Stanislaus leaders acknowledged skepticism about state officials.

"I appreciate your fear," Craven responded. "I'm painfully aware that the valley does get the short end of the stick on various things. I could eat my words, but I'm not thinking that's what we're going to see on this."

Supervisor Jim DeMartini scoffed at the idea of climate change, as he has in previous meetings, saying two related state laws and the Blueprint process "use a series of scare tactics and junk science to promote a political agenda."

DeMartini called Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an idiot.

Oakdale Mayor Farrell Jackson noted that Stanislaus County voters already have assured more compact growth by recently approving Measure E, which directs subdivisions into cities instead of unincorporated areas.

Ceres Mayor Anthony Cannella said many people will continue driving to Bay Area jobs regardless of lawmakers' good intentions.

"We all can wish for jobs, but all the wishing and all the state laws in the world are not going to make those companies come to Stanislaus County," Cannella said.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at gstapley@modbee.com or 578-2390.

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