Marsh to ignore development vote advice

Modesto City Councilman Garrad Marsh intends to vote on four growth-related decisions tonight despite complaints from the Central California Building Industry Association that he should step down from development issues.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission in April advised Marsh that he should not vote on a proposed farmland preservation measure because he could benefit from it.

Marsh has plans for a 14-lot subdivision near his home in northeast Modesto. The FPPC held that he could gain from a policy that restricts development because it could make his land more valuable.

Marsh and the city are awaiting more details from the FPPC on the extent of his conflict.

He faces a decision tonight on whether to advance four areas that lie outside the city limit toward eventual annexation. The council is considering whether to put those sites before voters this fall for Measure M votes, which are a way of seeing if residents would support growth there.

Marsh, the owner of McHenry Bowl and a staunch proponent of farmland preservation, says his vote tonight is too far removed from any actual development to be a conflict.

It takes about seven years to move a property from a Measure M vote to annexation and development.

"Farmland mitigation will be more questionable whether I have a conflict or not," he said. "On general stuff ... there is no conflict."

The BIA counters that Marsh is a developer who could benefit from any restrictions he places on land use. The BIA has appealed to the FPPC to prevent Stanislaus County supervisors who own agricultural property from voting on farmland preservation measures.

"I just know what the advice from the FPPC was," BIA Chief Executive Steve Madison said. "I'd be shocked that he'd vote without further legal opinions."

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

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

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