Is Patterson hurting itself by stiff-arming developer?

PATTERSON -- City officials know they are in the dark. But they aren't ready to turn on the light yet.

As a symbol of its opposition to the project at the former Crows Landing air base, the Patterson council has refused to allow its city employees to meet with developer Gerry Kamilos' staff. Kamilos asked for the city's help several months ago to discuss providing services and other issues.

Now, some council members fear that their strategy may be hurting them.

"We're not at the table, and we're not getting information," said Councilwoman Dejeune Shelton. "More and more time is passing. Everyone knows our position. We're not caving in, but we need more information. Not less."

Patterson could learn more insider details about the 4,800-acre industrial-rail project if it were to allow its staff to meet with the developers, some city officials said Tuesday at a council meeting.

"There is probably a lot more detail going on behind the scenes," said City Manager Cleve Morris.

Elements of the project could have a major impact on Patterson, such as a short-haul rail line through the region and a proposal to drill nearby wells that would affect the city's water resources.

"Despite our efforts to stop the project, it still may get there," Morris said. By then, it may be too late for Patterson to include mitigations that would offset the impact on the city, he said.

"We need to know what the full scale of impacts are going to be," said Councilwoman Annette Smith.

Despite the discussion, the council didn't reverse its position because not all members were in agreement.

Councilman Sam Cuellar was the most opposed, saying he believes Kamilos would take the information gleaned from Patterson's city staff and use it to the project's benefit.

Members of WS-PACE, a group of residents opposed to the project, said they didn't trust how the information would be used, either.

"There will be an appearance of cooperation that can be used against the city," said Patterson resident Claude Delphia.

Mayor Becky Campo said the city originally decided to withhold its staff until its concerns were addressed, but that has ended up leaving the city "continuously out of the loop." Council members agreed to revisit the issue at a later date.

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