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More jobs, more residents. Patterson to study annexation plan, seeks public input

1,200-acre northwest Patterson annexation to include thousands of homes, a school, parkland, commercial development and 7 million square feet of industrial space on Baldwin Road in Patterson, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019.
1,200-acre northwest Patterson annexation to include thousands of homes, a school, parkland, commercial development and 7 million square feet of industrial space on Baldwin Road in Patterson, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. aalfaro@modbee.com

Patterson is known for expanding its industrial base by accommodating distribution centers with easy access to Interstate 5 in western Stanislaus County.

The city is now pushing a 1,200-acre northwest annexation to include thousands of homes, in addition to land for another 7 million square feet of industrial space. The proposed development is capable of creating hundreds of jobs and adding 15,000 residents to this city of 22,700.

The city will prepare environmental studies on what’s called the northwest annexation, or the Zacharias master plan, situated on both sides of Baldwin Road, between Zacharias Road and the northern city limits. The sprawling area stretches from Rogers Road, on the west, to Ward Avenue and Highway 33, on the east; completing the environmental impact report should take eight months to a year.

The overall plan includes almost 5,500 dwelling units from single-family homes to apartments, a commercial area at the southwest corner of Zacharias and Baldwin, and 316 acres for industrial uses. A map shows thousands of medium-density homes — from small houses to condominiums — surrounding three lakes east of Baldwin, plus two schools and several parks.

A traffic circulation plan for the annexation aligns the South County Corridor with Zacharias Road and would restrict the number of connections on the roadway.

The city also could annex 68 acres of housing and park space next to the city corporation yard and Delta-Mendota Canal, which would be accessed by a south extension of Baldwin Road.

A public meeting is set for Jan. 17 to discuss what issues to study in the EIR.

City Manager Ken Irwin said Thursday that development interest served to step up work on the annexation in the past year and a half. The city has a 20-year growth horizon and a large-size annexation allows for better design of the necessary infrastructure, Irwin said.

“There is a definite need for housing now,” Irwin said. “When we meet with the logistics folks who are looking at (building distribution centers in) Patterson, they ask if we have homes available and what does the market look like.”

Loss of farmland and traffic impacts will be key issues as the annexation moves through the approval process. The county is expected to take a hard look at the annexation after Patterson officials cited numerous concerns with the county’s proposed Crows Landing business park last year.

With upward of 15,000 jobs planned at the former military airfield near Crows Landing, the Patterson annexation could provide housing for an undetermined number of those workers.

Jim DeMartini, Board of Supervisors chairman, said the city’s plan for more industrial facilities will certainly put more trucks on roadways. Patterson residents who commute over the Altamont to Bay Area jobs could be hired to work in those facilities, but the expansion also could increase cross-county commuter traffic between Modesto and Turlock and the county’s west side.

“Anytime you have that kind of truck traffic, you can bet it is going to impact the roads,” DeMartini said. “Patterson historically has resisted collecting fees for improvements.”

Irwin said a study will be done on projected traffic impacts before the city decides how to mitigate those concerns. The traffic fees for developers have not been established yet.

The county turned down Patterson’s offer last year, in which the city would pledge support for the county’s Crows Landing business center in exchange for county approval of the northwest annexation.

Patterson Councilman Dennis McCord said this week the city is planning ahead for a strong housing market and large companies looking to build facilities near freeways such as Interstate 5.

“Patterson is growing fast with all the jobs coming in,” McCord said. “People want housing and the housing prices are going up very dramatically.”

Amazon, Restoration Hardware and Grainger are among companies that placed distribution centers in Patterson in the past 10 years or so, but some manufacturers could be part of the mix in the new annexation, the councilman suggested.

“We have been considered for some of that in the past,” McCord said. “We are doing what we can to attract jobs to Patterson and Stanislaus County, so our people don’t have to commute (to the Bay Area).”

Keith Schneider, an executive vice president for Keystone Corp., said the new homes in the Zacharias plan will balance out the many jobs created in the city’s west industrial area. Keystone, a leading industrial developer in Patterson, is promoting 95 acres for housing in the northwest annexation.

“The jobs-housing balance is what we have always advocated,” Schneider said. “You need rooftops and you need people to fill the jobs. Clearly, since the downturn in 2007 and 2008, we have climbed out of it and the market is stronger.”

Irwin said the large amount of medium-density housing in the plan allows for the city to plan for a larger population. The city can change to larger homes on standard-sized lots if that is favored by the market.

Some concerns with the annexation were expressed at a city Planning Commission workshop in October. According to minutes, residents on Rose and Ivy avenues didn’t want the two streets extended into the development area for fear of increased motor vehicle traffic.

In time, the proposed annexation will be slated for a meeting with the Local Agency Formation Commission, whose mission is to discourage urban sprawl, protect the best farmland and provide for efficient government services. According to its policies, LAFCo will expect to see an ag-land preservation plan, requiring developers to put an equal amount of farmland in conservation easements or make payments to a mitigation program.

Irwin noted that Patterson Joint Unified School District has planned for a second high school in the area, though an elementary school is shown on documents released for the upcoming environmental study.

“We are early in the process,” Irwin said. “Those are some of the things that will be fleshed out as we do the studies.”

A scoping meeting on the environmental study will be held at 4 p.m. Jan. 17 in the City Council chambers, at 1 Plaza, in Patterson.

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