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In order to protect winery, Manteca may rip up thousands of farmland acres to the east
An almond orchard east of Manteca.

Delicato Vineyards could end up hastening the Modesto-ization of Manteca.

The world’s fifth largest winery wants a line drawn through almond orchards north of Manteca.

No tract homes would be allowed north of that line.

The winery brass like the idea of a 1.4-mile buffer.

Regardless of whether they prevail with a city hall deal, it is clear that any effort to develop a subdivision in the shadow Delicato is casting over its neighbors’ land will be met with a torrent of legal maneuverings by the winery.

It would put the land in question in almost the same category of a toxic waste cleanup site.

What developer in their right mind would tie up time and capital in what could turn out to be a money pit?

Delicato dictating Manteca growth to the north limits the amount of housing that can still be built means only a few projects including, ironically, the 177-lot Kiper Homes at Indelicato project along Airport Way, owned by relatives of the winery, can be built north of Lathrop Road and west of Highway 99.

The sub-dividable  land to the south of the 120 Bypass to almost gone, although there are plenty of houses that can yet be built based on approved projects.

The 760-home Villa Ticino West neighborhood now underway on the southwest corner of Airport Way and Louise Avenue is the last hurrah for large-scale neighborhoods in west Manteca.

Manteca, to the northeast, is unlikely to hear the duet of power saws and hammer guns on a daily basis anytime soon.

That’s because much of the land is broken into small parcels, plus existing streets are almost completely lined with homes on small rural plots. And what is close to Highway 99 and French Camp Road has been earmarked for industrial and business park uses.

That leaves only Manteca to the southeast as the next frontier for growth.

It is virtually an untapped region for developable land.

And while it has always been in play at some point down the road, it could easily become fast tracked into the 10-year urbanization horizon.

Two events in the past several months have changed the game.

One is the Delicato Vineyards’ action against the city.

The other is a well-heeled development firm that is moving forward with the 814-home Yosemite Square neighborhood.

Yosemite Square is on the northeast quadrant of the 120 Bypass and Highway 99 interchange.

A major component of the project is extending a sewer line beneath Highway 99.

When that happens, the barrier to more tract-style development on the east side of Highway 99 is positioned to crumble.

Add to that mix the Austin Road/Highway 99 interchange upgrade that starts next year and you can see where things are heading.

Unlike the south stopped by the 200-year floodplain, the west by Lathrop, and the north now by Delicato Vineyards, the east is wide open.

The city’s designated sphere of influence for more than two decades has made it clear Manteca has designs to the east at least as far as Prescott Road with that extended in an imaginary line as far south as Graves Road.

And once you get past Austin Road in the north, there’s more area that is also designated as residential urban reserve.

The two areas is where a good chunk of the land that is envisioned to take Manteca to 211,000 residents and beyond.

Unlike Manteca’s sphere of influence boundaries on the east as well as south and north, there are no barriers stopping the city from going farther east to Jack Tone Road and even farther that.

It means Manteca could easily end up sprawling out to the east just like Modesto.

The question is that what does the community really want to see happen?

The possibility has existed for eastward growth for more than 20 plus years based on long range planning.

Even so, it has been extremely abstract.

That’s just like the area south of the 120 Bypass was once abstract in terms of development until ground broke on the first tract home in 1998.

No one — except for perhaps developers, elected leaders at the time, and a few planners that didn’t view the 120 Bypass as a barrier to growth south — envisioned what you see today in South Manteca.

Delicato Vineyards’ legal maneuverings will likely shift the attention of developers to the east sooner than later.

In doing so, if there is ever going to be a frank community discussion that can lead to a decision with some teeth in terms of how big Manteca should ultimately get, it has to be now and not 20 years from now when the next scheduled general plan update in 2025.

If you don’t believe that, ask rural residents along south Manteca country roads such as Peach Avenue and Fig Avenue who were repeatedly told by city planners back in 1997 that growth wouldn’t be anywhere near them for another 35 to 40 years.

They are now experiencing everything that were told wouldn’t happen another 10 to 20 years from today.

Manteca’s urbanized neighborhoods could easily be knocking on the doors of rural east Manteca residents by 2045, especially if the ability of the north to accommodate projected population growth for the next 20 years is severely cramped by Delicato Vineyards’ actions.

You might view that a problem of those who live in the rural area and who, for all practical purposes, have little say in what happens given they are not city residents nor city voters.

They can’t elect the people who will be deciding their future.

However, what happens to the east will likely have a bigger impact on the quality of life — read that the size of a city Manteca will ultimately become — than the fight now underway for the north.

What is ironic about all of this are the number of people who bought into Delicato’s argument in their push for a referendum in the general plan was all about overall growth in the city.

It was just part of a ploy coupled with lawsuits and now the threat of initiatives to erode future council powers to make basic growth decisions for the winery to extract actions from elected leaders to protect Delicato’s interests only.

That means to “protect” the winery’s ability to do business as usual in terms of how they dispose of wastewater from the grape making process, Delicato Vineyards is willing to sacrifice the agricultural viability of a large swath of rural East Manteca.

This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at