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Stanislaus County votes to keep Crows Landing property

Stanislaus County will retain ownership in the Crows Landing Air Facility property and develop long-term leases for the land, the board of supervisors decided today.

The 1,527-acre air facility is the heart of a proposed 4,800-acre industrial and business park planned on the West Side.

The county is negotiating a master developer agreement with PCCP West Park to create the business park, which would include a short haul rail link between the property and the Port of Oakland.

Keeping the property will let the county take advantage of Federal Aviation Administration funding for the airport on the property and give the county greater control over the land use, according to county deputy executive officer Keith Boggs.

Developer Gerry Kamilos and his team gave the board an upbeat progress report on the project and fielded some tough questions from Supervisor Jim DeMartini, a skeptic about the development.

“We’ve left no stone unturned in analyzing all aspects of the project,” Kamilos told the supervisors. “I see nothing that’s insurmountable. There are a lot of issues and challenges, but none of them are new. We’ve met those challenges in other projects.”

West Park’s transportation consultant, D.J. Smith, reported that the application process for state bond money for the short haul rail link will likely get under way during the second quarter of 2008. That puts the supervisors’ timeline for negotiating with West Park in a dilemma. The exclusive negotiating period is to be 12 months, and half of that time has elapsed.

The project is counting on state infrastructure bond money earmarked for improvements to rail corridors and environmental improvements.

DeMartini grilled Kamilos on several aspects of the project, including what happens if West Park doesn’t get the bond money.

“The project seems to be revolving around the inland port and short-haul rail. What becomes of the project if you do not get the I-bond money?” DeMartini asked. “Do you change the project, do you abandon it?”

Kamilos didn’t directly answer the question.

“We are not programmed for failure,” he said. “We are seeing more and more people who see the tremendous benefit of this for the Central Valley. Ultimately, I think this project will be implemented.”

DeMartini also questioned the project’s water source, the kind of jobs it would develop, and the economic viability of short-haul rail.

West Park is looking at a number of possibilities for water, Kamilos said, and the ultimate solution may be a regional approach. The water source will be identified before the board votes on the project, Kamilos said.

The 37,000 jobs West Park projects will be diversified, Kamilos said, including warehousing and white collar jobs to capture commuters who now travel to the East Bay.

The short-haul rail will make economic sense when the proposed route and connections eliminate bottlenecks and detours, Kamilos said. The environmental benefits of eliminating thousands of truck trips over the Altamont Pass should also be factored into the equation, he said.

Supervisors Jeff Grover and Dick Monteith voiced support for the scope and vision of the West Park proposal. Board chairman Bill O’Brien said he was skeptical of the bond money, but willing to give the West Park team a chance to pursue it. Supervisor Tom Mayfield said he would reserve comment until the negotiation process is over.

The board voted to retain ownership in the air facility property on a unanimous vote.

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