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Hatfields & McCoys
Manteca, Lathrop file lawsuits against each other
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Lathrop Gateway - a massive residential and business park on Manteca’s doorstep northwest of McKinley Avenue and the 120 Bypass - is expected to generate a ton of traffic.

But Lathrop leaders aren’t requiring the developer to pitch in to pay their fair share of the proposed McKinley /120 Bypass interchange just a stone’s throw away that Manteca is pursuing. Instead they expect Manteca to pick up the entire $25 million tab.

That doesn’t sit too well with Manteca’s elected leaders. Mayor Willie Weatherford noted that Lathrop is suing Manteca over the Center Point Business Park to force Manteca to pay for improvements to the Roth Road and Interstate 5 interchange over a mile away.

Weatherford said Thursday during the Manteca City Council meeting that Lathrop filed suit against Manteca to pay for future work at the I-5 and Roth interchange even though Lathrop hasn’t conducted a study to determine costs needed to assess and justify leveling fees on development.

The issue came up before the council authorized spending $1.4 million in federal funds they secured when Congressman Richard Pombo was in office to pursue McKinley interchange work. The money must be spent soon or else the city will lose it. The funds will pay for an environmental study and preliminary engineering for the interchange.

The first volley was fired seven years ago when Lathrop sued to block the Big League Dreams sports complex and the adjoining Stadium Retail Center. Lathrop argued it would generate more traffic on Louise Avenue. Lathrop’s argument was based on the assumption the people attending games and shopping who travel on Interstate 5 would get off in Lathrop at Louise Avenue. They would then travel more than three miles on surface streets, cross two train track lines, and deal with six traffic signals instead of taking the 120 Bypass and exiting on Airport Way to directly access the shopping and sports complexes.

Manteca - concerned a long court delay would cost the city Kohl’s and other retailers plus postpone the BLD complex - agreed to an out-of-court settlement. Manteca agreed to pay for improvements needed to accommodate traffic that could be proven to have been generated by BLD when it came to Lathrop’s surface streets. That study has yet to be done by Lathrop.

The damage to Manteca, however, had been done. It delayed the BLD groundbreaking by a year. Meanwhile steel and cement prices soared adding over $4 million to the cost. Kohl’s also delayed construction by a year fearful of getting stuck in the middle of a protracted court battle. That cost Manteca a year’s of sales tax revenue.

The two cities have agreed to try to work out their differences on Center Point out-of-court so as not to delay the project at Roth Road and Airport Way. The 180-acre project involves more than 4 million square feet of distribution aimed at taking advantage of the site’s proximity to Union Pacific intermodal year. It represents a $175 million investment and up to 600 permanent jobs in addition to 800 construction jobs.

Meanwhile, Manteca has filed a lawsuit challenging the approval of the Lathrop Gateway project.