Stanislaus County, the City of Patterson, and a North Carolina-based developer have teamed together on a business park that all parties hope will bring employment to an area that has seen rapid housing development but minimal job growth. Construction could begin as soon as this summer on the first 10-acre portion of the West Patterson Business Park. But officials are taking a long-term view of the project, which they believe could eventually serve as an employment center for up to 15,000 people. "We're probably looking at buildout at anywhere from 20 to 40 years," said Patterson Planning Director Rod Simpson. The long view is probably a good one to have, as Tracy, a city about 20 miles closer to the Bay Area than Patterson, has worked for years with modest success to lure businesses over the Altamont Pass to the Central Valley (see CP&DR Economic Development, November 2001). And near Tracy, the City of Lathrop and San Joaquin County have planned hundreds of acres of industrial and official parks. In 1999, Stanislaus County undertook an industrial and business park study of the Interstate 5 corridor. The study considered five sites and concluded that about 475 acres of industrially zoned land between Patterson and the freeway, which lies west of town, was the best site because of where it is located in the county, traffic circulation and proximity to city services. Following the study, Keystone Pacific revealed its desire to build a business park on 224 acres of farmland it owns just north of the area already zoned for industrial development. Keystone also plans a 950-unit housing project in the vicinity. So the city, the county and Keystone Pacific went to work on a master development plan for 820 acres, an infrastructure financing strategy, and a development agreement for Keystone Pacific's 224-acre site. The development agreement that was approved in January by the city and in April by the county spells out the responsibilities of all three parties. The deal is complicated but the basics are these: The city will extend water and sewer services to the area, the county will provide $1.5 million in road improvements, and the developer will build at least 60,000 square feet of flexible space on a speculative basis. Besides the deal with Keystone Pacific, the project also involves a great deal of cooperation between the city and the county, which has received the blessing of the Stanislaus County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). The 820-acre industrial park is outside the city limits. The site will remain unincorporated for a time, even though the city will provide services. Normally, LAFCO would require the city to annex the territory receiving the water and sewer services, said Executive Officer Fran Sutton-Berardi. But because the city and county have worked together and have agreements on the project, LAFCO was willing to allow an "out-of-boundary" agreement. Simpson expects it could be at least 10 years before the city annexes the industrial park. The LAFCO also increased the city's sphere of influence to cover the Keystone site and a neighboring 119-acre parcel. And the agency approved the city's annexation of Keystone Pacific's planned 950-home Patterson Garden's housing development and an adjacent sports park. The residential portions are important because residential development is helping fund infrastructure that will extend to the industrial area, according to Simpson. Both the residential projects and the industrial project will participate in a Mello-Roos or similar financing district. Keystone Pacific is responsible for building storm drainage facilities. Because the master plan area is within the city's new sphere of influence but still outside the city limits, the county is providing the entitlements, but both the city and the county are reviewing site plans and architecture designs. In fact, in late June the Patterson Planning Commission approved the site plan and design of Keystone Pacific's speculative project — three buildings totaling 72,000 square feet. Under the development agreement, Keystone Pacific (which did not return CP&DR telephone calls) must begin construction of its speculative industrial project before the city can grant any residential building permits. The developer is limited to permits for 215 units until the speculative project is complete. The idea is to ensure that the business park gets started before residential construction shifts into high gear. Both the city and the county see the speculative project as a catalyst for more industrial development. "We [the city] have the same goal that the county does, and that's job creation for our citizens," Simpson said. A staff report to the county Planning Commission stated, "In recent years, the county — and Patterson in particular — has seen an almost unabated demand for residential development which has been satisfied by large-scale residential projects … Unfortunately, employment growth has not kept pace." Simpson noted his city's population has roughly doubled to 13,500 in about 15 years, with commuters to the Bay Area composing a large percentage of new residents. Stanislaus County Senior Planner Kirk Ford said that with the adoption of the master plan, general plan amendments and the rezoning of more than 300 acres, the industrial park "is as set up as we can get it at this point without having a specific project in mind." Officials centers are a strong possibility, though, because of the access to I-5, Simpson said. But distribution centers would make it difficult for the city and county to meet their goal of 25 jobs per developed acre. And distribution center jobs might not buy a home in Patterson, where new houses start at about $250,000. There has been virtually no opposition to the industrial development plan, even though water supply is always a concern in the region and the environmental impact report made clear the project's serious consequences. The EIR found that the groundwater basin (Patterson gets all of its water from wells) could support the project at full buildout. However, the increased pumping will lead to a quick degradation of the groundwater, forcing the city either to treat the groundwater before delivering it, or to find a source for surface water. The EIR, for which the city was the lead agency, identified several unavoidable impacts: Loss of hundreds of acres of prime agricultural land, cumulative impacts to I-5 traffic, cumulative air quality impacts, odors from the wastewater plant, and potential impacts to water supply and water quality. But the EIR did not receive a legal challenge. Contacts: Rod Simpson, City of Patterson, (209) 892-2041. Kirk Ford, Stanislaus County, (209) 525-6330. Fran Sutton-Berardi, Stanislaus County Local Agency Formation Commission, (209) 525-7660.