Community Columns

Time to take stalled West Side project from West Park

In a Feb. 28 Bee article ("West Park wins," Page A-1), West Park developer Gerry Kamilos said if West Park fails to get the rail bond money, the county would be free to reconsider its master development choice. Kamilos needs to make good on that commitment.

The county is fortunate that there was another company whose plan to develop Crows Landing and increase the economic opportunities, both in jobs and tax base, did not include short-haul rail. Another bonus is that the developer, Hillwood, is apparently still interested in taking over the development.

Hillwood's plan was endorsed by the Crows Landing Steering Committee and The Bee, and the company has a proven track record with similar industrial parks. More important, unlike West Park, Hillwood does not rely on state money or action from the Legislature. Its proposal doesn't require a long wait to act.

The county wisely included a section in the contract with West Park that gives them legal grounds for getting out of the contract. It says "either party may terminate the agreement without cause upon 30 days prior written notice to the other party."

Kamilos has failed to obtain the support needed to have even a remote chance to get his required funds, and the county needs to move forward quickly to get this project on the right track of creating jobs in the near term.

The sooner the Board of Supervisors gives West Park its 30-day termination notice, the sooner the county quits spending good money after bad and the sooner we can bring thousands of real jobs to the valley.

Bakker is a Modesto area businessman.