State

Modesto landowners fund growth campaign

All of Measure E's campaign donations came from landowners hoping their rural properties eventually would be annexed to Modesto and developed, according to finance disclosure forms.

Measure E is the only one among five Modesto growth measures whose supporters are actively campaigning to persuade voters that the city should extend sewer services for eventual building. They had raised $16,563 and spent $10,069 as of Sept. 19, according to the report.

Also known as the Hetch-Hetchy area, the 830-acre tract is east of North McHenry Avenue's car dealerships and bounded on its other sides by Pelandale Avenue, Claribel Road and Oakdale Road. Hetch-Hetchy would produce the most houses as opposed to jobs, compared to Measures A, B, C and D.

Measure E also was the only measure that did not receive unanimous City Council backing, advancing to the Nov. 3 ballot on a 4-2 vote after failing to gain support from a council growth committee. And it's the only measure that didn't win an endorsement from the Modesto Chamber of Commerce.

Measure E's largest donations came from Anthony Rodin of Rodin Ranch ($4,550, 113 acres in Hetch-Hetchy), Ronald Ursini ($3,206, 80 acres) and Alex Liakos ($2,559, 64 acres).

The advisory growth measures are not binding on the council.

Frank Bavaro said he and other property owners are advocating for Measure E without the help of a development firm, in hopes that the area would be ready to build when the market rebounds in several years.

"There is not a developer involved in this, other than me getting landowners together and saying, 'Hey, let's all kick in a few bucks,' " Bavaro said.

Supporters were late filing campaign reports because the city clerk's office did not inform them they had to, said campaign consultant Michael Gaffney. The landowners paid him $6,000, according to the report.

Added to the other measures, Modesto voters will weigh in on potential development of nearly 3,000 acres on the city's fringe -- the largest combined areas in 30 years of advisory growth measures.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at gstapley@modbee.com or 578-2390.

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