Ken Carlson

Stanislaus County planner’s appointment scrutinized

Katherine Borges has definite views on growth politics as they pertain to Salida and Wood Colony.

The outspoken Salida resident will broaden her scope with a recent appointment to serve on Stanislaus County’s Planning Commission. Supervisor Terry Withrow recommended her appointment, which was confirmed by the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 16.

Borges said she is set for orientation with the Planning and Community Development Department in January and could be sworn in Jan. 15. Also appointed was Tom Orvis from Bill O’Brien’s supervisorial district, including the Oakdale and Riverbank area. Orvis is governmental affairs director for the county Farm Bureau.

Borges’ appointment is cause for some discussion because of her role in territorial battles between Modesto, Salida and Wood Colony. She has fought against the idea of Modesto annexing Salida or any part of the Salida Now community plan. And she has joined Wood Colony residents in opposition to Modesto extending its boundaries into that rural community.

Borges said her interest in the Planning Commission began with her idea to create a planning body for Salida, the county’s largest unincorporated town. She said she was envious that the unincorporated community of Castro Valley in Alameda County has its own planning commission.

Borges approached O’Brien and Withrow in October about creating a Salida Planning Commission to augment the town’s Municipal Advisory Council. The concept didn’t take hold. Withrow then suggested that Borges serve on the county panel.

One might question whether Borges will use the Planning Commission as a pulpit for her causes.

“If I was vocal about something and it came to the Planning Commission, I supposed that could pose an issue, but I don’t anticipate it at this point,” Borges said.

The new planner needs to learn about things such as zoning ordinances and planned development districts. “As far as community service goes, I feel I am well-qualified,” she said.

Modesto Councilman Bill Zoslocki said Friday it’s an interesting appointment. “The challenge for Katherine will be: Can she represent a broader area than the local area she has been concerned about,” the councilman said. “She certainly has the capacity to understand planning concepts. Planning, such as recognizing good locations for schools and commercial properties, is the challenging part for any planning commissioner.”

Borges, who serves on the Salida MAC, said she knows of a Salida application that soon will be before county planners. A merchant wants to put a new market in the former sheriff’s substation and probation reporting center on Broadway Avenue. The plans were presented to the MAC on Dec. 2. The business owner wants to change the angle of parking spaces next to the building.

Borges won’t be the only outspoken person on the Planning Commission. Orvis often shares his opinions in The Modesto Bee and Ag Alert, the weekly Farm Bureau publication. Some commissioners are more given to backing property rights than imposing fancy architectural standards. County leaders rely on the commission to make decisions on parcel maps and other land use applications, but any of the decisions can be appealed to the Board of Supervisors.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at or (209) 578-2321.