The meeting was eventually adjourned until Monday, July 30, when the council plans to vote on whether to certify the project’s environmental impact report, in addition to a proposed general plan amendment and annexation of the land for the entire project. Developers hope to meet an Aug. 1 application deadline set by the Stanislaus County Local Agency Formation Commission. They need the agency’s approval because land outside of the city limits would be annexed to build the business park.
LAFCo is made up of some members of all of the county’s city councils and the county board of supervisors. It is chartered to deal with Stanislaus County land-use issues. Meeting the Aug. 1 application deadline would mean the project could be considered in October and conceivably be ready for business in early 2013.
The massive project would expand the West Patterson Business Park by 1,119 acres and increase the city of Patterson’s physical area in four phases by nearly 30 percent during 20 years or more. Most of the 1,119 acres are now farmland.
The expansion would be split into two business parks: the 948-acre Arambel Business Park and the 104-acre KDN Business-Retail Center. The Arambel park would focus on light industrial businesses, such as those already in the West Patterson Business Park, while the KDN center would also include retail stores.
Developers say the project could create 10,000 jobs for an area hit hard by unemployment and bring in $7 million in annual tax revenue for the city.
Arambel Project Manager Joe Hollowell said the city and developers weren’t far apart on many issues, but they disagreed on the amount of impact fees the developers should pay to help with infrastructure improvements needed when construction begins.
A city staff report calculated that the fees should be just more than $139 million to the city during the next 20 years to help pay for such things as water and sewer infrastructure and road improvements. Hollowell contended that the fees should be closer to $63 million, of which $8 million would go to the county and $7 million to the Patterson Joint Unified School District.
“We want to pay our fair share,” he said, but he argued that fees must be lower so the project could be profitable for everyone.
Hollowell said he calculated the fee structure based on developer agreements for the existing West Patterson Business Park.
City staff members, on the other hand, are calling for the fees to adhere to the 2010 General Plan, he said. While fees were set higher in the past for development, the city often lowered those fee structures when making individual agreements with developers to make the projects more attractive for business.
Hollowell said the city’s proposed fees needed to be “significantly lower.”
“It will kill the project,” he said.
Councilwoman Annette Smith said she was not opposed to changing the fees, but she contended that “every project should bear their fair share.”
The council directed staff members and developers to get together and work out both the fee amount and the allocation of land for a sports park or a future medical center and a public safety center to house police and fire crews.
The staff report recommended that the city seek land for a joint complex for police and firefighters, while Hollowell suggested leasing a building in the park for police and allocating land for a fire station in the expansion area.
A few people in the audience took issue with aspects of the project.
Developer J.P. Smith voiced disagreement with the retail component of the KDN retail center, saying cities usually exhaust their existing inventory of commercial land before they annex more land for retail shops. He said there was still plenty of commercial land in Patterson and asked for the council to consider delaying the commercial component of the project and moving forward only with the light industrial portion.
Council members also found themselves at odds with David Lehman, a senior project engineer for the Stanislaus County, who spoke on behalf of Matt Machado, Stanislaus County’s public works director.
Lehman reiterated Machado’s arguments at the July 5 planning commission meeting: that by his calculations, the city would see an increase of 150,000 car trips per day because of new businesses. Area roads and intersections would need to be prepared for the added congestion, he said, noting also that the environmental impact report called for 15 percent of the project’s cost to go toward a new intersection at Zacharias Road and Highway 33, which he called “clearly inadequate.”
Lehman also repeated Machado’s plea for a meeting among city leaders, developers and county officials to discuss the project. He added that the expanded business park would require a new Interstate 5 interchange at Zacharias Road that has not yet received funding. Officials and developers should not count on that happening soon, he warned.
City Traffic Engineer Christopher Thnay of TJKM Associates said Machado’s numbers were faulty, however. Thnay calculated that Zacharias Road and Highway 33 would see closer to 6,000 daily trips, a fraction of Machado’s predicted 150,000.
Thnay said the environmental impact report did not call for an I-5 interchange at Zacharias, but one would be needed when the business parks were 60 percent complete.
Deputy City Attorney Doug White said a meeting of the parties was scheduled for Tuesday, July 24.
White also laid out a timeline for working out the outstanding details and the developer agreement to be ready by the Aug. 21 regular City Council meeting.
• Nick Rappley can be reached at 892-6187, ext. 31, or email@example.com.