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Mayor: Flood zone limits growth
Doubts urbanization will occur in southwest
A farmer works his fields near a Manteca neighborhood. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Flooding concerns – and not planning initiatives – is what Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford believes will determine Manteca’s ultimate southwest city limits.

Weatherford doubts whether much of the area that was the subject of an intense battle over the past few months by farmers and homeowners opposed to any line showing a future McKinley Avenue Expressway in the countryside southwest of Manteca will ever develop.

“I don’t know of any developer that would consider building down there due to the flooding concerns,” the mayor said.

He noted it would not be the city but the reclamation district that would determine where – or if – a dry levee would be built to provide needed flood protection. A large swath of the area that the proposed change in the envisioned McKinley alignment would take passes through an area that was flooded in 1997 when seven levee breaks occurred along the Stanislaus and San Joaquin rivers.

The general area has flooded nine times since 1929.

The City Council when they adopted a traffic blueprint update for the general plan earlier this month declined to change the envisioned McKinley alignment to pass through the flood zone. The question will be revisited when work starts on the 2013 general plan.

City staff has made it clear that development couldn’t go forward regardless of what lines that may be drawn on a map if cross levees aren’t built to take the area out of the 100-year floodplain.

“The city will follow all state laws,” Weatherford noted in reference to laws that make it illegal for urbanization in areas that aren’t afforded protection against 100-year flood events.

On the question whether Manteca should take any steps to establish ultimate limits to city growth, Weatherford said that wasn’t in the cards as far as he was concerned.

“I’m a firm believer in property rights,” Weatherford said.

A number of farmers over the years have sold land near Manteca - specifically when the 120 Bypass was built - and used the proceeds for retirement or to buy larger tracts of land farther away from urban development. For many farmers land is their retirement whether they sell to another farmer or a developer.

Weatherford noted the east is the only side of Manteca where the ultimate boundaries haven’t been determined.

On the west the river and the City of Lathrop have created a natural stopping point. To the north, it is the ultimate boundaries of Stockton near French Camp Road that draws the line for Manteca development. In the southeast, an annexation of 1,042 acres for the Austin Road Business Park has taken the city right up against Ripon’s sphere of influence.