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Retired teacher frets about Manteca growth

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POSTED July 9, 2014 1:28 a.m.

When Caroline Finn came to the top of the hill at the Grapevine nearly 30 years ago and beheld the great valley below, she knew there was no going back.

That is, back to the traffic, smog, and pollution in Los Angeles.

“When I went over the hill, I left all that behind me. I am just grateful to be here,” said the retired Manteca Unified school teacher who went on to work as a substitute teacher post-retirement.

Finn was a Southern California girl for many years. Then in 1978, her parents made the move to the Central Valley in their travel trailer. She followed suit and pulled up stakes 10 years later and never looked back.

“I never regretted one second leaving all that smog down there,” and the thought of Manteca being “remotely like that is just unthinkable to me,” said Finn whose entire family now lives in the valley. Her parents “just kind of stumbled onto Manteca and both really liked it,” and a brother lives in Turlock.

Her father, who was an insurance salesman with Metropolitan Life for many years, passed away in 2006. Her mom, a spry 95-year-old, still calls Manteca home. And while the Family City has seen a “huge growth” since the 1970s and 1980s, “I don’t want any more growth,” Finn firmly stated.

It’s that sentiment which prompted Finn to add her voice to the people behind the website www.SJneighborsUnited.org which is responsible for the green-and-white signs that have popped up on roadsides in rural south Manteca such as Nile, Fig, Almondwood avenues, and South Union Road. The organization is calling for “fair and sensible growth,” with the website content giving a laundry list of the issues involved along with referenced in-depth explanations and what the concerned residents can do to make their voices heard.

The issues include flooding, natural water flows and irrigation, storm water, sewer, and water quality south of the Highway 120 Bypass and how these are impacting – and would impact – new housing and other development growth in this largely agricultural area south of incorporated Manteca, including unincorporated areas that are within the city’s sphere of influence.

Finn is responding to the organization’s message that “the time to be heard is now” by speaking out and making her voice heard.

“You have one voice to speak loud and clear – go slow on the growth. There are some of us that really want the quiet life that we have. We don’t want to change that. I don’t want Manteca to be like Stockton. There are always those who will do just about anything to make some money. I know they could steal our farmlands for houses, but I think they need to step back. I don’t know how many farmers are ready to retire and sell their land, but if we take away our agricultural land, that’s just not a good thing either,” Finn said.

Flooding in south and southwest Manteca is one issue that Finn is familiar with. She was teaching in Tracy when the devastating New Year’s floods of 1997-1998 happened, prompting the evacuation of hundreds of residents living in the low-lying areas south of the 120 Bypass. The subject of flooding and its impact on the environment in Manteca’s agricultural areas around the San Joaquin River is one of the many topics discussed in-depth on the Neighbors United website.

“Various properties in the county were last flooded in 1997. In particular, the area south of Manteca had numerous properties impacted by flood waters,” the website notes.

“It appears that the Raymus Expressway will be built in conjunction with a flood levee to protect the expressway and properties located north of the proposed roadway. That creates concern with many residents south of Manteca and causes them to question the impact that the Expressway/levee will place on increasing the elevation of flood waters on properties located south of the Expressway/levee in the event of a levee break. With that in mind, it seems likely that some properties that did not experience flood damage in 1997 could be impacted by future San Joaquin River levee breaks due to the displaced flood water effect resulting from development.”

Those who share the concerns of Neighbors United organization are encouraged to make their voices heard and their concerns known by contacting their local representatives, attending open meeting, getting involved, and speaking up when requests for public comments are asked for.

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