Sewer lines and annexes are eyed

Building remains at a recession standstill in Modesto, but the City Council on Tuesday could set the stage for development residents will see a decade from now.

The council is expected to consider whether to ask voters in November if Modesto should extend sewers outside its boundaries to four areas that could be annexed.

Three of them are billed as predominantly commercial, job-generating projects that have not stirred much controversy.

One, a 480-acre swath of farmland between Modesto and Riverbank, mostly would focus on residential growth, but its supporters are trying to draw attention to parcels that could house retail development.

Developers are eager to advance the projects because it takes seven years or more to annex a project and begin building after the sewer line vote.

In that time, builders expect to shell out cash for environmental studies and other planning checks before they can begin to turn a profit. They'd be on the hook for the sewer extensions, too.

The four areas that could move forward if voters agree that they should get sewer lines are:

The north McHenry Avenue corridor, a 130-acre area that is developed and characterized by a row of car dealerships.

This area was the center of a political spat in the summer of 2006 when it was revealed that certain businesses did not have to pay a tax required of their competitors because of differing compacts with the city. Annexing the land would generate sales tax for the city and end the dispute.

A 240-acre area west of Highway 99 that is designated to be developed as a business park. This proposal is considered an infill project because it is surrounded by developed property, even though it would sit on prime farmland.

An 1,100-acre area along Kiernan Avenue that is desirable because it has land zoned for commercial development in its eastern corner. Residential growth could develop, as well.

Tivoli North, a 480-acre proposal that would bring Modesto's border to Riverbank's.

This project is being carried by a development group led by PMZ Real Estate President Mike Zagaris, who last year finished an annexation of Tivoli, a neighboring development area north of Sylvan Avenue.

Tivoli North would have at least two retail sites along Oakdale Road, planning documents show.

Two appeals rejected

Much of the discord over the proposals comes from landowners who are disappointed that three City Council members who weighed the proposals on a committee didn't favor their properties.

One group submitted pleas from 21 landowners along Claratina Avenue who want 960 acres north of the city annexed. They say traffic and congestion has limited their ability to farm there.

Consultant Ron Katakis argues that property east of Roselle Avenue has the poorest soils under consideration, meaning that land should advance to a sewer line vote.

Council members have rejected both of those appeals, saying they don't want to clutter the ballot and hinder the chances of the commercial projects, and because they're not certain how the other proposals should develop.

Councilman Garrad Marsh has raised questions about Tivoli North for similar reasons. He's concerned that voters are in no mood to consider residential development in a recession, a feeling that could jeopardize the commercial proposals.

The Modesto City Council meets Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the basement chambers of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St.

Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at or 578-2366.