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Legal move keeps 1,400 jobs viable
Manteca trying to avoid repeat of costly BLD litigation
Truck traffic from the existing Union Pacific Intermodal facility and the military exchange service already travel Roth Road through Lathrop. - photo by HIME ROMERO
A legal agreement aimed at not jeopardizing the potential creation of 1,400 jobs with a protracted court battle has been hammered out by Manteca, Lathrop, and CenterPoint developers.

The Manteca City Council authorized City Attorney Donald Lupal to sign the “tolling agreement” that suspends Lathrop’s lawsuit while a settlement is negotiated over concerns Lathrop has with the project impacting their streets with additional truck traffic.

Manteca leaders made the move to avoid a court battle that could delay CenterPoint for anywhere between a year to three years depending upon the judicial backlog.

Manteca also acted to avoid a repeat of what happened when Lathrop sued Manteca over the Stadium Retail Center and Big League Dreams project. It effectively delayed both projects for a year until such time the courts ruled in Manteca’s favor.

In that case Manteca lost out on sales tax and jobs that Kohl’s and other stores generated for a full year. The delay impacted the BLD construction project as costs soared by nearly $5 million due to a sharp spike in cement and steel in the global market.

In the BLD lawsuit, Lathrop contended traffic would increase significantly on Louise Avenue from travelers exiting in their community to reach the BLD complex. The assumption was they would not take freeways to the Airport Way exit but instead would travel across two sets of railroad tracks and follow surface streets through six traffic signals to reach the sports complex.

Lathrop contends the environmental impact report for CenterPoint was inadequate when it came to addressing traffic issues. They also believe the city did not properly notice the project and therefore could not legally approve it.

The City of Manteca and the developer cannot “physically disturb” the site for the proposed Center Point project as long as the tolling agreement is in place

Community activist Joe DeAngelis termed the Lathrop move “extortion” and questioned why Manteca was kowtowing to Lathrop’s demands.

Manteca city attorney John Brinton noted that the agreement is a way of keeping the project moving forward while the parties work out their differences.

The pending shift of container traffic away from being processed directly to trucks at the Port of Oakland means about 600 permanent jobs plus 800 construction jobs could be created in the Center Point Business Park going in next door to the Union Pacific Railroad truck-to-rail facility.

Terry Nash, a vice president of development for Center Point who is overseeing the Manteca project, indicated in November once they get full entitlement to build that it would take 12 to 14 months to develop the project.

The Center Point project is part of the Northwest Airport Way master plan for 300 acres bounded by Roth Road on the north, Airport Way on the east, Lathrop Road on the south and the UP tracks on the east. It includes the 188-acre Center Point project that is proposed for 4 million square feet of distribution centers.

It is designed for large distribution center users ranging from 250,000 to a million square feet. By comparison the Ford Motor Parts distribution center on Spreckels Park is 550,000 square feet.

Center Point - which is owned by the California Public Employment Retirement System - is planning to pump $175 million into the project.

Union Pacific Railroad is currently going through the environmental review process to expand the intermodal operations to the west of the Center Point site from 220,000 lifts to 700,000 lifts a year. A lift refers to the loading or unloading of a truck trailer for the rail-to-truck - and vice versa operations.

The City of Lathrop expressed concern over truck traffic from the Center Point project and the impacts it would have on Roth Road and its interchange with Interstate 5. Lathrop also noted construction traffic is expected to impact Louise Avenue through Lathrop.

Traffic impact fees that Center Point will pay - including a regional fee - could very well go toward paying for improvements on Roth Road in Lathrop.

Part of the traffic impacts of Center Point will be mitigated by being adjacent to the UP intermodal operations and through that use of a private at-grade crossing for future firms to take their trailers to and from the intermodal yard. It is similar to how some other Center Point business parks operate.

An estimated 80 percent of all truck traffic that is ultimately generated off site will use Roth Road to access Interstate 5.