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Growth Management Plan Discussed
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A growth management plan aimed at conserving agricultural land throughout Stanislaus County was briefly discussed by Riverbank City Council members at their recent meeting and forwarded to the Planning Commission for a public hearing.

Prepared by the Mayors' Working Group in collaboration with the Local Agency Formation Commission, the finished plan is likely to be presented to the voters in 2012.

Commenting to council, Mayor Virginia Madueno said individual cities can no longer afford to grow independently but must collaborate to make the best use of the land lying between them and in particular make provision for the preservation of agricultural land.

Cities must include input from other agencies such as school districts, she said, questioning why Mesa Verde Elementary School for instance, was built so far outside city limits and available services.

"Mesa Verde should not have happened. It's not within city borders, it has no sidewalks (leading to it). It's on septic tanks and wells. How did we allow this to happen?" she asked. "How can we afford to build outwards? For me personally, it is essential to infill."

The cooperation of irrigation districts also was essential, said Development Services Director J.D. Hightower.

Vice Mayor Richard O'Brien asked, once the area's borders were determined, how easy would it be to change them. What would happen, for example, if Modesto outgrew its borders?

Hightower said that would be determined by LAFCO, the Stanislaus Council of Governments (StanCOG) or perhaps ultimately the vote of the people.

Speaking of the land along Highway 108 between Riverbank and Oakdale, Hightower said he understood the two cities had signed "a gentleman's agreement" on its future use.

Interim City Manager Pam Carder commented Oakdale had a copy of such a signed agreement but Riverbank did not.

Obviously the land north of Highway 108 is prime agricultural land, Hightower said, but the land south of the highway was less productive and was probably best left in its current use of 40-acre ranchettes.