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July 5, 2006 > Patterson Ranch update

Patterson Ranch update

by Vidya Pradhan

On June 27, an agenda item of the Fremont City Council was to discuss the issue of development of 520 acres of the Northern Plain Planning Area. This area comprises 428 acres of the Patterson ranch, 92 acres of Cargill Salt and 141 acres of open easement. Qualified for the November ballot, the "Protect Coyote Hills Natural Area Initiative" seeks to preserve the bulk of the area as agricultural land and severely limit residential and industrial development. The initiative was developed by the Friends of Coyote Hills in Fremont (FCHF) and qualified for the ballot with over 13,000 signatures collected from members of the community.

The city of Fremont had two alternatives - to allow the initiative to be passed as an amendment in the city's general plan or to put it on the ballot. To this end a presentation was made by a team comprised of Jonathan Stern from Bay Area Economics, Joshua Channell from Impact Sciences and Joe Story from DKS Associates.

Four possible scenarios were presented by the team in determining the future of this area.

Scenario 1- Existing General Plan and Zoning: The existing general plan calls for 261 low-density residential units with an average density of one dwelling unit per acre plus the continuation of five parcels as large agriculture lots with a single residence. In addition, the Cargill property would be developed for limited industrial with a development potential of approximately 900,000 square feet.

Scenario 2- Initiative Farmland: Re-designation of Patterson Ranch and Cargill Salt property to private open space with the opportunity for nine small farms with a typical density of one unit per 80 acres.

Scenario 3- Initiative Residential: Through the donation of land west of Ardenwood Boulevard as permanent open space, 100 housing units would be allowed on the eastern side of Ardenwood Boulevard.

Scenario 4- Patterson Ranch Proposal: The development proposal calls for 800 new housing units primarily on the east side of Ardenwood Boulevard with 40,000 square of integrated church and commercial, plus 900,000 new limited industrial square feet at the Cargill property.

The possible impact of each scenario on funding, business attraction, parks, traffic and the school district was presented.

Afterward, questions were welcomed. Bill Stevens from the Fremont Unified School District stated that FUSD was neutral toward the initiative provided no students were impacted adversely. Gus Morrison, former mayor of Fremont, opposed the initiative on behalf of the Patterson family. Bill Douglas of Cargill Salt also opposed the initiative on the grounds that not only would it be detrimental to the interests of the company, but it would also result in the loss of a potential source of revenue for the city. Members of FCHF and other ecology groups came out in strong support of the initiative to protect the unique wildlife and environment particular to this area.

It was then the turn of council to deliberate on the issue. Councilmember Anu Natarajan expressed her unhappiness with the necessity to make a decision of such magnitude in a relatively short time. She said there needs to be a longer period of time to study the ramifications of the various scenarios of the proposed development. Other council members echoed her sentiments. Councilmember Wieckowski suggested an extension of time to consider alternatives until a called special council meeting July 5. This was rejected. Ultimately the council decided to put the initiative on the November ballot. A resolution was passed requesting that the city attorney do an impartial analysis of the initiative. In the meantime, proponents and opponents of the initiative were advised to present their arguments in writing by August 11.

For full text of the initiative see www.fchf.org/initiative.htm.

Sources: Northern Plain Planning Area Initiative Fiscal Analysis document prepared by Bay Area Economics; city council meeting archives.

 
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