What's our mission, Crows Landing committee wonders

The Crows Landing Steering Committee is a group without a mission, according to members who questioned its relevancy Wednesday morning.

The meeting demonstrated the controversy still simmering between the West Side and county officials over the PCCP West Park development proposal.

The group, which has been meeting for seven years, heard West Park developer Gerry Kamilos give an update on the 4,800-acre project and his efforts to inform the public about the development.

The West Park proposal would create a business and industrial park surrounding and including the county's 1,527-acre Crows Landing Air Facility. It would be anchored with a short-haul rail connection to the Port of Oakland.

The steering committee is mostly made up of West Side residents. It was formed to advise the county Board of Supervisors on the development of the air facility, a former Naval air station. When the county narrowed its focus to two master developer candidates, a site selection committee and the steering committee both recommended the other candidate, Hillwood Development Co., headed by Ross Perot Jr.

The Board of Supervisors, however, chose PCCP West Park on a split vote that created bitterness among West Siders who felt their voice was being ignored. West Side representatives object to the size of the West Park proposal and the increased train traffic it would bring through the city of Patterson.

Wednesday, one steering committee member asked what the role of the committee was at this point. That sparked an exchange between Supervisors Jim DeMartini, an opponent of West Park, and Dick Monteith, a supporter.

"I don't know if (the committee) has any relevance," DeMartini said. "The Board of Supervisors never listened to us anyway. The selection committee, this committee, letters from Patterson and Newman, were ignored."

Monteith took exception, saying that the steering committee's function was to evaluate the pluses and minuses of each proposal, "not to determine which program to go with."

Residents' input highlighted

DeMartini and Monteith form an ad hoc supervisors' commit- tee to work with Kamilos in putting together the project proposal.

Keith Boggs, county deputy executive officer, suggested that the committee may have served its purpose.

Committee member Earl Perez, a West Side farmer, said he felt the county still needs a forum for West Side residents to comment on the plans as they progress.

Member Tom Burns added that residents from all over the county should be represented, so industrial developments don't wind up competing with each other rather than working together to attract tenants.

After the meeting, Monteith said the steering committee and the ad hoc committee need to stay focused on improving the West Park proposal.

"Supervisor DeMartini and I differ on this (project). I believe we need to give West Park a period of time to present their program. It's a waste of time when everyone becomes defensive," Monteith said.

DeMartini reluctantly scheduled the next steering committee meeting for Dec. 12.

Bee staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at tmoran@modbee.com or 578-2349.