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Pitting neighbor against neighbor?
City resident decries McKinley plan as destroying farming
City residents worry the McKinley Avenue Expressway plan will significantly increase traffic on Woodward Avenue. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Opposition to any form of a McKinley Expressway continued to mount Tuesday as city residents joined the growing chorus against a roadway they believe will induce growth and destroy prime farmland.

Bernie McGraff - a resident of Wimbledon Court in Manteca - spoke out against adopting any road alignment for McKinley outside of existing city limits saying it would only destroy prime farmland and ruin people’s ways of life.

Another city resident - Peter Anderson who lives along Woodward Avenue - told the Manteca Planning Commission the expressway as configured would only encourage more fast-moving traffic to go down narrow Woodward Avenue where he says no law enforcement agency - the CHP or Manteca Police - are able to combat excessive speeding due to being short-handed.

They joined a solid group of nearly 60 rural Manteca residents who have now filled the city chambers for two straight commission meetings speaking unanimously against the road plan regardless of how far off into the future it might end up being.

The commission was unable to act due to staff suggesting two additional alignment alternatives to try and avoid splitting parcels. City Attorney John Brinton noted that since the alignments weren’t delineated in the public hearing notice process that the commission could not legally proceed with a hearing and possible vote although they could conduct a workshop.

Several commission members indicated they weren’t ready to make a decision anyway as they wanted to find out more about the status of a dry levee that would be needed before development could occur or even a road be built. Staff is now scheduling a workshop to address a proposed levee that also would cut across rural property and require the commandeering of private land with fair market compensation in order to protect future development in Manteca. Although eminent domain involving levees per se was not discussed Tuesday, historically reclamation districts have used the legal process to secure land for holdouts since without all parcels a levee is essentially worthless.

The adding of two different versions of the alignment playing off the staff’s recommended route two weeks ago only served to raise anxiety as to the city’s motives.

More than one speaker said it seemed the city was trying to “pit neighbor against neighbor” in trying to get them to favor one of the options over the others.

“I’m beginning to feel that I’m a victim of retribution,” Bill Mahaffie said. He noted the first preferred route by the city was 1,100 feet from his backdoor. Now one of the two routes that the city tweaked to splitting less property is just 30 feet from his back door.

Speakers also made it clear they felt they were in a no man’s land since they were included in the city’s sphere of influence in 2003 by the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors. Spheres of influence are areas the county believes are best suited ultimately to be urbanized and annexed to a nearby city. Speakers said county planners have told residents to take their concerns to the city.

Essentially that has left the county residents without any elected official openly representing their interests as they are not city residents.

“(What we are hearing is) we don’t know what is best for us so the city is going to plan out the rest of our lives,” said Dee Wackerly.

Wackerly and others noted that once an alignment is in place they need to disclose that fact if they go to sell their property. That, they contend, would lower the value of their parcels to those interested in a rural lifestyle.