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On urban development in county

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webmaster | 12/31/12

As a Maderan I am very concerned with growth and development in the southeast area of Madera County. The proximity to Fresno, the relatively low price of land, the large open spaces, and the bluffs along the San Joaquin River make this a tempting area for Fresno developers to build housing tracts and strip malls. This leapfrog development results in urban sprawl.

The lack of adequate roads, the absence of water (San Joaquin River water is already allocated and agricultural designated water cannot be used for housing developments without permission from the state) and the general lack of infrastructure, along with the ensuing litigation, raises the price of development substantially.

The developers would like to pass these costs on to the Madera taxpayers and in previous years they have succeeded in doing this. With increasingly tight budgets and better-informed taxpayers the rate of new developments has slowed.

Developments already on the books are being increasingly reviewed and challenged, further raising the costs.

One such development recently re-examined and approved by the Madera Planning Commission is the Tesoro Viejo development. A new town in southeast Madera County: 5,200 new houses, 16,000 new residents and 16,000 acres of leapfrog development and urban sprawl, Fresno style.

The planning commission should have denied the Fresno developer permission to build Tesoro Viejo without mandating the cost of the necessary infrastructure be paid by the Fresno developer and not by the Madera County taxpayers. If not, Maderans will pay for the infrastructure with more taxes or by giving up needed repairs in existing cities and towns.

It is disputed whether the Tesoro Viejo development has a clear supply of water. According to environmental defense lawyer Patience Milrod, the contract with Madera Irrigation District is under court challenge; MID water is supposed to be used for agriculture and MID would have to get permission from state and federal agencies to divert the water.

The same with the San Joaquin River water the developers claim to have contracted. They haven’t met the state and federal governments’ conditions to access river water and they are being challenged in court by the San Joaquin River Restoration Committee.

The third source of water they claim to have is ground water they plan to pump from the Cottonwood Creek Ranch, which would require an eight-mile pipeline within the Avenue 15 right-of-way.

The Fresno developers also claim Caltrans is going to widen and rebuild Highway 41 within their construction time frame, which according to my sources with Caltrans is not true. Caltrans has filed a lawsuit against Madera County for approving the plan. Highway 41 will soon be further congested by truck traffic from two new gravel quarries that have been approved by the Madera County Board of Supervisors.

New industrial zone?

Why does Madera County need another industrial zone that is planned within the Tesoro Viejo development? Madera and Chowchilla have ample room in our industrial parks and the roads and infrastructure necessary in place and ready now without the costs of building a new ones in the southeast comer of our county.

Why wasn’t the developer willing to build within the City of Madera? The cities of Madera and Chowchilla have the infrastructure and planning in place to accommodate growth without creating expensive and unnecessary urban sprawl in Madera County. Madera taxpayers have made a huge investment in roads, schools, water systems, planning and all of the other necessary components for orderly urban growth in Madera County. New urban development in Madera County should be in the cities and not in agricultural zoned rural areas.

The Madera County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors failed the citizens of Madera County in approving the Tesoro Viejo development. The developers will profit at Madera County taxpayers’ expense. Madera County taxpayers deserve a planning commission that does more than to serve as a rubber stamp to enrich Fresno developers.

Currently, following the Madera County Board of Supervisors decision to approve the project at a special meeting, the project is being challenged in court by the San Joaquin River Restoration Committee, the Madera Oversight Coalition, Caltrans and the City of Fresno.

Call or write your Madera County Board of Supervisors and ask them to explain why they approved the Tesoro Viejo development.

In my opinion the entire project should be aborted. Madera County should adhere to the principles of smart growth and reject leapfrog developments and urban sprawl.

James Lex Bufford,
member of the Madera Downtown Association Board of Directors


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