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$112K habitat study to park trailers
Manteca firm trying to expand saddled with costly state study
This view shows the 7.98 acres Tuff Boy wants to expand into for trailer parking (circled in red) adjacent to the Tuff Boy dealership at Yosemite Avenue and the Highway 120 Bypass. - photo by Photo Contributed

Described as what could be fodder for a Woody Allen movie, Tuff Boy Trailers is facing more than $112,000 in fees in their effort to expand a truck storage yard on the west end of Yosemite Avenue where it intersects with the Highway 120 Bypass.

In question is an eight-acre parcel, contiguous to an existing trailer facility that is zoned light industrial.  It is currently regarded as a wildlife habitat – requiring a biological study costing some $14,000 per acre.

The study’s $112,000 fees are expected to triple if the California Department of Fish and Game were to enter into any dispute over the property usage.

A use permit cannot be issued without first identifying project impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act, according to Steve Mayo, senior habitat planner for the San Joaquin Council of Governments (COG).

Tuff Boy Sales controller Lucille Harris said COG sees their firm changing the land use from “active agricultural” use to light industrial.  She said it hasn’t been in agriculture for over 25 years when the acreage was split by the construction of the Highway 120 Bypass.

Mayo responded to the Tuff Boy request in writing saying, “The differences with regards to species between active farming activities and a discretional permit activity, like trailers being parked on the property, are vast.”

He further explained that when the land is kept in farming activity it provides potential foraging habitat and nesting land for many species covered under the San Joaquin Multi-Species Habitat Conversation and Open Space Plan (SJMSCP).

Harris requested a waiver of the biological fee study on June 11, saying the site was purchased in 2007 with a light industrial zoning, and with the understanding that the property would be usable for highway trailer storage.

A history of the total 88-acre site dates back to 1969 when that acreage was acquired by William Harris and William Duncan.  Primarily the farmland operation produced alfalfa, onions and pumpkins.

In 1975 the state took a chunk out of the center of the property, dividing it into four sections, because of the bypass construction.  Harris said the remaining land was limited in its agricultural potential and uses due to the congestion from light industrial development in the area.

Four years later the Central Truck and Equipment Company purchased and built on a six-acre parcel – the property was later acquired into the Tuff Boy operation.  The Central Truck dealership is contiguous to the eight-acre parcel now requiring a use permit, Harris added.

He said his company’s 2008 purchase of the eight-acre property consisted of flat land with a lower level in tule habitat.  Harris stressed that the tule area is the only location that would attract wild life – noting that trailers would not be parked there.

Harris said he was informed that the construction of the Highway 120 Bypass left the property without irrigation, inhibiting agricultural uses.

Tuff Boy recognizes wildlife on the property including hawks, jack rabbits, fox, black birds, doves and pigeons as well as abandoned cats and dogs – just last year spending $2,000 for animal rescue.  

“The most prevalent rescue need is the necessity to provide veterinary care and homes for the countless abandoned dogs and cats that are left on the Tuff Boy and Harris-related companies’ doorsteps,” Harris said.

The Tuff Boy spokesman said she believes the parking of additional trailers in the area will be less disruptive to wildlife than the purported row crop farming due to the low traffic movement of the trailer equipment.

The growing jack rabbit population on the Harris 45-acre site to the east houses flat bed trailers as well as being open land for area species, Harris said.