Kevin Valine

Lots of room for growth in Modesto

By Kevin Valine

The City Council’s Economic Development Committee will review Monday how much land Modesto has for homes, stores and industry.

The short answer: an awful lot. The city’s urban growth review identifies 1,680 acres within the city for development. That acreage breaks down into 910 acres for residential development, 200 acres for commercial development, and 570 acres for industrial development, including business parks. This land is composed of what the city calls vacant and underdeveloped land, with vacant land making up most of it.

This is Modesto’s first urban growth review since July 2009. The Great Recession and its aftermath have meant that such a review has not been needed for a while. These reviews typically are done every two years.

The city conducts these reviews to inventory its vacant land and determine whether it needs to put advisory measures on the ballot, asking voters to extend sewer lines for new development. City officials are recommending the council not put any advisory measures on the November ballot.

The urban growth review looks at how much land the city can expect to be developed each year.

The review states that the historical growth rate for residential development may no longer apply because of the “poor economic conditions in recent years.” The review considers more conservative growth rates and determines Modesto has enough land for residential development through 2022.

It comes to a different conclusion regarding commercial and industrial development.

The review states that on average, 13 acres of industrial land and 20 acres of commercial land were developed annually from 2000 to 2014. While it appears Modesto has more than adequate amounts of land set aside for industrial and commercial development, the review states that is not the case.

Some of the industrial and commercial land lacks infrastructure, the review notes. Modesto also is amending its general plan – which serves as a blueprint for the city’s growth – to designate land outside its city limits for what the review calls strategically located land for business parks and “enhanced economic development opportunities.”

That reasoning has brought a backlash against the city, especially among residents of Wood Colony, west of Highway 99, after the council last year included part of the farming community in the general plan amendment.

It also sparked a successful citizens initiative to put an urban growth boundary on the November ballot. If passed by voters, Stamp Out Sprawl would require a citywide vote before development could take place outside the boundary. The review acknowledges that would affect Modesto’s ability to grow.

The committee meets at 5 p.m. at the Alliance Free Enterprise Center, 1020 10th St. The report is available at Click on the link under “Agendas & Meetings” for the Economic Development Committee meeting and then click on the link for the meeting agenda.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at or (209) 578-2316.