Drone view of the former Crows Landing military airfield
At a time of pitched political rancor, when it’s common strategy to fight fight fight, it’s nice to see someone instead patch things up with a potential enemy.
Such is the case with Stanislaus County and its two West Side cities, Patterson and Newman.
In late November, the cities sued the county, saying environmental documents for the county’s future business park near Crows Landing were inadequate. A bustling 1,528-acre center like that, with 15,000 new jobs, could lure more than 34,000 new residents in 11,000 future homes forced on the two cities, they complained, not to mention a need to double the capacity of local schools.
Jim DeMartini, a county supervisor whose district includes that area, called foul. A few months earlier, Patterson had tried to extort the county by offering not to make a stink about the business park in exchange for county support of a 1,200-acre city annexation in northwest Patterson, he charged.
Cities and counties engaging in turf wars is nothing new. Nor is friction involving these agencies over the future of the West Side. All see huge opportunities to become stronger through growth — the cities, through annexation and new construction, and the county, in turning the former Crows Landing military airfield into a business park.
They’ve long argued over whose fault it is that roads have deteriorated, partly because of big rigs serving Patterson’s impressive distribution centers. Did the city give away the store by not exacting enough money from developers? Hadn’t the city simply imitated the county, which sponsored the first industrial park just outside of Patterson?
Newman, which also hopes to expand with a 340-acre annexation, got into the act with a parallel claim against the county, which retains more than a fair share of property taxes after losing land when a city grows, Newman contended.
So things were looking bleak. Court battles can be so ugly, so costly and last so long. Is that good for anyone? Is a judge or jury really the only one smart enough to sort things out?
Of course not.
To their credit, the three agencies sat down and talked. It didn’t take long to see that working together would be so much cleaner and easier — and certainly a lot cheaper — than a fight to the death.
First, Newman agreed to drop its lawsuit in exchange for a county promise to pay a percentage of costs for intersection upgrades, rather than sticking new development with the burden of fixing old problems. The county also agreed to a new formula, more advantageous to Newman, for sharing taxes from newly annexed property.
Second, Patterson and the county came to terms on several disputed items, including the possibility of the city providing sewer services to the county’s future business park, and the county making sure future business park companies pay their fair share to upgrade the Sperry interchange with Interstate 5. And the county won’t oppose Patterson’s wish for the future South County Corridor to join up with I-5 near Zacharias Road just north of the city, rather than at Crows Landing.
What’s important here is that people decided to listen, understand each other and make a conscious decision to get along.
It’s not practical to expect such adult behavior in every situation, especially when the stakes are high. Sometimes, one side is clearly in the wrong and the other in the right. Usually, the truth is somewhere in between — which should mean fertile ground for compromise.
We hope that’s not a lost art. There is room for doubt, after seeing 20 presidential candidates from the same party shred each other in recent debates.
We don’t know how long the truce will last between Stanislaus County and its West Side cities. For the time being, their cooperation is to be commended.