The massive project would expand the West Patterson Business Park by 1,119 acres and increase the city’s physical size in four phases by nearly 30 percent.
The expansion would encompass 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 projects, such as those already contained in the West Patterson Business Park, while the KDN center would also include stores.
Land developer and farmer Jeff Arambel is pushing to have City Council approval by August in an attempt to gain the OK of the Stanislaus County Local Agency Formation Commission by the end of the year and have the first phase of land ready for development in 2013. LAFCo is the agency tasked with working out land use between cities and Stanislaus County. The agency’s approval is required because some land included the project is outside Patterson city limits and would need to be annexed.
“This has been a long time in the works. We’ve spent nine years working on it,” said Arambel, a local farmer and land developer. “We need shovel-ready ground with parcels large enough to accommodate businesses.”
Joe Hollowell of GDR Engineering, who represents the Arambel project, said the project would provide jobs for workers in the city and the region.
“It will bring 10,000 jobs at buildout,” he said. “With 23 percent unemployment in the city, we need to create more permanent jobs.”
Hollowell said Patterson landed Internet retail giant Amazon.com, which plans to open a local distribution center in 2013, because the city had land prepared and available.
“We weren’t the first choice,” he said. “But we had land ready. We want to be the first choice. We had a site ready to go and a competitive fee structure.”
Portions of the West Patterson Business Park plans were still being worked out during the planning commission meeting, as developers contested some of the city’s 124 conditions for approval.
For instance, developers disputed the $139 million in development fees that the city said they would owe. Those fees would be paid throughout the four phases of the project, according to city officials. Hollowell, however, said city estimates were too high by $25 million to $30 million, if developer fee structures set forth in the city’s 2010 General Plan were applied.
Deputy City Attorney Doug White acknowledged the differences during the meeting and said the details could be worked out before the plan went to the City Council for approval, which is expected to occur July 23, a Monday.
Hollowell said it also appeared the city’s conditions were trying to force the developers to adhere to master plans that had not yet been drawn up by the city. City officials are working on master plans for development of the city, but will not have them approved until later this year. The master plans serve as a blueprint for development based on requirements set forth by the city’s General Plan, which was passed in 2010.
Planning commissioner David Applegate sided with Hollowell regarding the fees.
“How can we enforce anything greater than the standards already set?” he asked.
Matt Machado, Stanislaus County’s director of public works, expressed concerns of his own during the public comment period, saying that no one representing the West Patterson Business Park developers had met with county officials to discuss the project.
Machado said 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 needed to be prepared for the added congestion, he said. He noted that the project’s 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 was “clearly inadequate.”
“The burden (of payment) should be on this project,” Machado said.
Describing the report as alarming and short-sighted, he called for revisions to the plan following a meeting between county officials and the developers and before the plan was approved by the city.
Hollowell said Machado’s statistics were grossly exaggerated but said he was open to meeting with him.
Christopher Thnay, the city’s traffic engineer, calculated that traffic speeds would average faster than 32 mph when Zacharias Road was busiest, and that was considered acceptable for traffic standards.
Commissioner Ron West took issue with a provision written in by developers that would require “one-to-one” agricultural land mitigation. An agricultural mitigation reserves land elsewhere in the county for agricultural use only, to offset the agricultural land being made into industrial land.
“I don’t like setting that as a precedent,” West said. “Not everyone is as big as you and can afford that.”
Hollowell said the mitigation was being requested by the landowners to fend off lawsuits by land preservationists.