During the meeting, the council told city staff members and the developers behind the proposed Cordes Ranch project what they do and do not want to see in the most visible part of the development — the corridor adjacent to Interstate 205. Cordes Ranch is planned for 1,723 acres of land south of the freeway west of the city limits,
The discussion was part of the early stages of designing a specific construction plan and a developer agreement that lays out the details of the Cordes Ranch project. The move Tuesday night was not a formal approval of the plan.
There was one overriding issue moving forward. Specifically, council members balked at the idea of big-box, warehouse-style buildings to greet motorists who are driving east on I-205 into the city. Mayor Brent Ives called it a “treasured piece of corridor” that he did not want defined by such buildings.
“We are jealously guarding the 205 here,” he said.
The developers — including Reynolds and Brown, Christie Properties, Golden State Developers and Tracy Whalley Investors LLC — hope to make Cordes Ranch’s prime land near the interstate available for a mix of possible uses, such as distribution centers, stores, manufacturing and office space.
The perimeter of the site extends from the planned Gateway project — which is being developed on Lammers Road across from Kimball High School — to the Delta-Mendota Canal west of Mountain House Parkway, then southeast along the canal to Schulte Road, and then east back to Gateway.
Councilman Robert Rickman was the most outspoken during the discussion, saying the city gets only one shot at making the right decision for its western border.
“There’s a saying, ‘If you dress up a pig, at the end of the day, it’s still a pig,’” Rickman said of having warehouses along I-205. “I’m going to die in this town — I have kids who are going to grow up inside of this town. I want them to have a town to be proud of.”
Dave Babcock, who spoke on behalf of the Cordes Ranch development group, said the developers and the city staff considered a plan that would force businesses closest to I-205 to adhere to stringent architectural and landscaping standards.
Babcock said the first 1,000 feet off the interstate would be prime ground for corporations seeking a high profile, and they would be willing to meet strict aesthetic standards in exchange for the real estate.
“We’re out to attract high-end users, Fortune 100 users,” he told the council. “We want to make sure that it’s real clear up front what could the possible uses be. … These are higher-paying jobs, just by virtue of the development. These are not your low-end industrial warehouse buildings.”
He added that even if a company with a large distribution center wanted to set up shop along Interstate 205, its surroundings would be heavily landscaped and its architecture designed to be as attractive as possible.
The developers, Babcock said, want the flexibility to respond to the market in attracting businesses while still
protecting the community’s image.
Tim Murphy, a member of Tracy Whalley Investors LLC, which owns the land closest to I-205, said there are big plans for that area, including one company that he said might change the minds of the City Council. He didn’t disclose the name of the company.
“We have some plans, that this is the fanciest pig you’ve ever seen, and I think you’d be proud of it,” Murphy said in response to Rickman’s comments. “This is probably my last project, and we’re going to do it right.”
City Manager Leon Churchill advised the council that a certain level of flexibility in the specific plan would help the city diversify its economy, especially in light of a trend he has seen in corporate America to consolidate manufacturing, office and distribution uses in one place.
“We need to make room for the possibility that distribution centers could be part of a campus-like setting,” Churchill said.
He said after the discussion that the council’s message was loud and clear, noting that city staff members would shape the plan and developer agreement to reflect the council’s desire for greater control of what springs up along I-205.
The city hopes to have the development approved and begin annexing the Cordes Ranch property sometime in 2013, according to a staff report.
Senior center improvements approved
The City Council also unanimously OK’d a design for an activity yard that will be attached to Lolly Hansen Senior Center, 375 E. Ninth St.
A patio, outdoor tables, a shade structure, benches, a garden, a horseshoe pit and basic exercise equipment will be added to the northeast side of the center, which is part of the City Hall plaza complex.
The project will be funded by $160,000 in federal Community Development Block Grants, not by the city’s general fund, which was expected to run a
$2.2 million deficit this fiscal year.
A poll of senior center users and others in the community shaped the amenities for the walled but wheelchair-accessible area, said recreation coordinator Jolene Jauregui.
Construction is expected to begin in September and should be complete by May. Recreation Director Kim Scarlata said work on the outdoor area would not interrupt daily activities at the senior center.
City continues Delta lobbying
The council agreed to spend $8,000 from the city’s water fund to pay for its share of regional lobbying efforts regarding the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Gov. Jerry Brown revealed late in July a plan to ship water around the area of the Delta near Stockton and Tracy through two large tunnels. That water would be pumped south to farmers and other users in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.
The City Council has been on record in the past opposing such a project, worrying that it could degrade the water quality of San Joaquin County’s waterways and increase water rates for Tracy residents.
But on Tuesday, members of the council and city staff expressed concern that part of the plan could add a layer of bureaucracy to development, usurping the ability of cities and counties to plan growth in and around the Delta.
“It’s an effort to protect our local sovereignty,” said Councilman Bob Elliott.
Rhodesia Ransom, his opponent in the race for the local seat on the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors, also encouraged the council to continue its lobbying, saying the governor’s proposal was a failed plan that would harm Tracy and the county.
At a glance
• WHAT: City Council regular meeting
• WHEN: Tuesday, Aug. 7
• WHERE: City Hall, 333 Civic Center Plaza
• DETAILS: Mayor Brent Ives and councilmen Steve Abercrombie, Bob Elliott, Michael Maciel and Robert Rickman were present.