County forms plan for manufacturing, distribution centers at former Crows Landing air base

The former Crows Landing naval airfield in western Stanislaus County has not been debated since the plans for West Park were put to rest two years ago.

Now, county government has a preliminary plan for developing the former air facility west of Highway 33 between Patterson and Newman.

The plan for a 980-acre industrial area and 370-acre general aviation airport stays within the 1,531-acre footprint of the county-owned site. Planners expect it will take 30 years to fully develop the center, which has the potential for creating thousands of jobs.

To capitalize on truck access to Interstate 5, just two miles away, 40 percent of the job-creation area would be designated for distribution centers, said Keith Boggs, an assistant executive officer for the county. An additional 40 percent would be for manufacturing, and 20 percent for smaller business-park uses. Some acreage would be reserved for green space and public facilities.

“We want to allow business to grow and jobs to come to the west side of Stanislaus County,” Boggs said.

The conceptual plan will be presented at public meetings set for 6 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Crows Landing fire station and the same time Oct. 30 in the Patterson City Council chambers.

The meetings are a kickoff for state-required environmental studies, which are expected to take a year to complete. Boggs said residents can see the plans and comment on what should be addressed in the environmental review.

County officials said they’re making an effort after the much-disputed West Park project was criticized for ignoring concerns of nearby communities. In August 2012, county leaders cut ties with West Park developer Gerry Kamilos, who failed to make progress with his plan to turn the former Crows Landing Naval Auxiliary Landing Field into an industrial and transportation complex with 13,000 jobs.

Kamilos sparked outcry with an original proposal for a 4,800-acre project and railroad improvements so trains could haul containers between the former base and the Port of Oakland. His plan later was downsized to 2,900 acres.

The county tried to lure another developer in late 2012 and early 2013, but no one submitted a proposal. The county hired a consulting firm to prepare a land use and infrastructure plan and to complete environmental work, which is always a hassle for developers in California. Once that work is done, officials hope the site will entice a major developer.

The new plan has an aviation piece to satisfy an agreement that deeded the federal property to the county in 2004. Boggs expects it will take time to develop the airport but said there should be potential for serving private airplane owners and corporate air.

The county will designate the smaller of the two runways for the airport.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jim DeMartini, who represents the area, said the county could offer lease agreements for aircraft owned by Cal Fire, the California Highway Patrol and other government agencies. “That would get our foot in the door for (Federal Aviation Administration) grants” to pay for airport facilities, the chairman said.

DeMartini said he didn’t know of any developers with a current interest in the project. The former naval facility consists of some old buildings, open land and two runways previously used by fighter jets and P-3 Orion patrol planes.

Developing the site will require investment of millions of dollars in roads, water lines, utilities and other basic improvements. To dispose of a small amount of wastewater from the industrial area, the county wants to tie into a line that carries waste from Diablo Grande to Patterson’s sewage system.

The county also needs a test well to survey the quantity and quality of groundwater under the former base. The only driller to bid recently quoted a price of $153,500 for the well, which was rejected this week because it was $70,000 higher than an engineer’s estimate.

DeMartini said the county wants to listen to public comments on the new plan. A description of the project will be posted on the county’s website within two weeks.