Stanislaus County is a unique community. Ours is a county where city leaders come together on a regular basis to discuss ideas, strategies, and opportunities where regional collaboration can best be implemented. Through the leadership of Modesto Mayor Jim Ridenour, the mayors from all nine cities began to meet on a regular basis nearly eight years ago. Through our discussions we search for ways to collaborate on topics of interest and issues facing our respective cities. More importantly, we recognize that a regional approach to address our challenges can often be approached with a collective solution.
A primary source of contention for many years has been regional planning; those seeking to stop growth from moving onto fertile farmland vs. the growing pains of population centers attempting to balance housing-jobs needs for those whom we serve. It is not an easy task, but one that is necessary for a sustainable future. Unfortunately, this task has led to quite a bit of finger pointing over who is right and who is wrong, but has also forced us to listen, learn, and again, approach the task with a collective solution.
Nearly eight years later and after several changes in mayoral leadership throughout this time period, the Mayors have developed a series of maps that help pinpoint the areas of growth for each city while protecting one of our most valuable resources, our prime agricultural land. These maps have been in the works for a number of years and take into account not only the mayors’ perspective, but also include the input of City Managers and Planning Directors from each of the nine cities. The maps serve a dual purpose: identify clear boundaries for city growth and protect prime agricultural land.
While our county has experienced its fair share of development over the past 20 years, it is time to do a better job of planning for the future. It is our responsibility as leaders to thoroughly study the issues, seek the expertise of others, and search for all possible solutions so that we may grow more sustainable and thriving communities, where we not only strive to protect valuable farmland, but we move forward and implement regional collaboration plans for water, sewer and transportation. This is not about a land grab, but rather about prudent and responsible growth for the future.
As we plan for the population growth in our county, it will become increasingly important to maintain transportation infrastructure and invest in public transportation and roads, upgrade our water and sewage infrastructure to support growth in existing communities and preserve valuable natural resources and water supplies for future generations, while safeguarding the agricultural economy. We need to support the next phase of development by promoting more infill projects to include jobs in a compact development pattern, which can reduce long-term costs to local governments.
As Mayors of our cities, we are proud of the initiative taken in reaching out to our county partners and those in the ag-mitigation community. We must all understand that when our cities are vibrant, our county is vibrant as well. Proactive, strategic land use and transportation planning for our nine cities is a step in the right direction. We are committed to lead this endeavor and are prepared to set the pace for proactive and strategic land use and transportation planning for the future. Let us continue in a positive direction by ending the finger pointing and focusing our energy towards this important issue through constructive dialogue.
Submitted by Stanislaus County Mayors: Ramon Bawanan, Hughson; Chris Vierra, Ceres; Jim Ridenour, Modesto; Virginia Madueno, Riverbank; John Lazar, Turlock; Charlie Goeken, Waterford; Ed Katen, Newman; Luis Molina, Patterson; Pat Paul, Oakdale.