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The lessons of Del Webb & Bass Pro Shops
Dennis Wyatt

North of Lathrop Road on land Nick DeGroot once tended almond orchards is one of the strongest pistons in the economic engine that drives Manteca’s economy.

It was his land and nearby parcels that Manteca’s real-world planners — developers — put together the city’s first specific plan dubbed Union Ranch that included 1,450 lots Pulte Homes acquired for an age-restricted Del Webb community.

Del Webb at Woodbridge started building as Bass Pro Shops opened their doors in the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley. That happened just months before the bottom started falling out of the housing market in 2008. It should be noted the land deal that made Orchard Valley was the handiwork of developers and not the city.

There are two lessons that Del Webb and Bass Pro provided that should be etched in the sidewalk in front of the doors that lead to the Civic City council chambers where elected leaders make decisions impacting the quality of life and economic vitality of the community.

Bass Pro’s lesson: Let non-residents willingly pay taxes to support municipal services in Manteca.

An estimated 98 percent of Bass Pro’s customers are not from Manteca. That’s huge. The sales tax those customers pay help cover the cost of police, fire, parks, and such they will create little or no demand for. It is the same concept that drove the deal with Great Wolf Resorts but instead of sales tax the prize is room tax.

Bass Pro’s impact can’t be overstated. For seven quarters when sales tax revenue was in retreat in surrounding cities due to the Great Recession, Manteca bucked the trend. The power of a retailer with a 100-mile draw lured those not hammered as hard by the recession to spend money. They paid sales tax that not only made up for a decline of taxable sales in a number of other Manteca stores but allowed the city’s overall sales tax receipts to keep growing.

Del Webb lesson: Entire neighborhoods of active adults — including many who are still working — without children at home tend to have more discretionary income critical to powering the small employers where the most economically challenged work. That includes restaurants, shops, and services.

Manteca was adding 300 to 400 housing units a year — more than all other jurisdictions in San Joaquin County combined — during the Great Recession. And between 30 and 40 percent of those housing starts were in Del Webb.

Besides having more discretionary income as a whole, Del Webb and similar communities don’t exactly tax municipal services. They hardly access police services. Code enforcement for the city isn’t an issue. Long before the city started requiring new neighborhoods to pay community facilities district fees to maintain parks, Del Webb residents were covering the full tab for upkeep of three parks in their neighborhood.

Del Webb doesn’t impact the schools. They have minimal impact on commute traffic. They don’t have yards that are dried out fire hazards. They have less trash, use less water, and generate less wastewater than an average Manteca household helping relieve cost pressures on the solid waste, wastewater, and water enterprise funds.

They also, like much of Manteca, are almost generous to a fault giving of time and money to help non-profits serve youth as well as those who are struggling.

The snagging of enterprises such as Bass Pro and Great Wolf reliant on a 100-mile radius for customers and guests as well as active age-restricted communities is beneficial to everyone in the community given their impacts are lower and the revenue they secure reflects discretionary spending by segments of people that tend to be better well positioned.

What Manteca needs to do to make sure as the city grows that the community as a whole is able to rise by not only making sure smart deals are made so this city can capture megaregional consumer dollars and the sales tax paid when they are spent but we also can attract more Del Webb-style endeavors that have a strong tendency to shop locally and support smaller enterprises and have less of an impact on services. That is why the addition of the age-restricted 495-home TruLiving at Manteca neighborhood breaking ground along Louise Avenue is a win-win for Manteca.

Manteca needs to make sure it keeps winning when it comes to balance growth mixing traditional single family housing with less expensive housing options not predicated on 6,000-square-foot lots, as well as accommodate age-restricted neighborhoods.

To that end Manteca’s leaders need to continue to make planning decisions that are conducive to raising all boats in the local economy.

That means addressing issues head on that can be a drag on well positioned growth.

Instead of engaging in fantasy planning such as believing the temporary dump known as the Lovelace Transfer Station should stay put, the city needs to start a course of action now to remove and relocate what will clearly be a cancerous blight on any effort to engage in smart growth.

The city is sending signals that it believes business parks should surround the transfer station as if it were the centerpiece of a future Hacienda Business Park. Sorry but high quality tenants including distribution won’t fall over each other to be neighbors of a garbage processing operation.

Relocate the transfer station.