Stanislaus ag plan gets 2nd shot at update

The proposed update of the agricultural element of Stanislaus County's general plan will be aired at a public hearing tonight before the Board of Supervisors.

The update, in the works for more than two years, addresses issues such as food safety, soil erosion, buffers between farms and residential developments, and parcel splits.

The most controversial issue in the proposal, however, is a provision to require developers to mitigate the loss of farmland. The mitigation would take the form of preserving similar farmland elsewhere in the county on an acre-for-acre basis.

That has drawn the opposition of the Building Industry Association of Central California, which opposed the provision at a hearing last week before the Stanislaus Planning Commission. The BIA said it is a violation of property rights and argues that farm acreage and farm product revenue have increased in the county over several years.

Farm representatives de- fended the mitigation provision, saying it allows developers to build on 50 percent of the remaining farmland in the county. The added farmland is in the foothills on poorer soil than in the valley, where most development takes place, they said.

The planning commission approved the ag element on an 8-0 vote, despite the BIA opposition.

The hearing will be the second consideration of the ag element by the board. The board in April said the first ag element proposal needed more specific details for such concepts as farm viability, buffers and easements.

Those details have been fleshed out, and the supervisors will consider it tonight.

Also on the agenda is the third-quarter report from PCCP West Park LLC, the developer of the proposed 4,800-acre business park in and around the county's Crows Landing air facility. West Park is in 15-month exclusive negotiations with the county to come up with a master development plan for the property.

The quarterly reports track the progress of the negotiations and whether West Park is meeting the schedule agreed to at the start of the process.

The West Park proposal has been controversial, drawing opposition from community leaders on the county's West Side.

The supervisors will meet at 6:30 p.m. today in the basement chambers of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th Street, Modesto.

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