There’s no doubt that Crows Landing’s former naval airfield is a gem that could provide an abundance of economic development opportunities for the West Side. The question is — and always has been — what is the best means of capturing that potential and doing so in a way that avoids hurting the surrounding communities of Newman and Patterson.
Stanislaus County Supervisor Jim DeMartini is right to question whether the project has financial backing and whether the Port of Oakland is even interested in the development, which is supposed to serve as an inland port. The project’s new-found focus on solar collectors also deserves questioning, as it may not be the best use of the surrounding land, as far as jobs are concerned.
Above and beyond all that, however, it’s time to ask what job centers would be the best fit for the airfield and what the project should entail.
When it comes to the Crows Landing Air Facility, Patterson leaders have mostly played defense the past few years, mostly because they have been forced into the role. They have done a fine job of telling the county and Kamilos what they don’t want, but there have been few recommendations about what would actually benefit the area and, ultimately, residents.
Regardless of whether or not the county votes to stay with Kamilos as a master developer, it’s time for Patterson leaders to take a proactive approach.
It’s encouraging to hear that Kamilos plans to speak with the West Side communities of Patterson and Newman before making his presentation to the county. That seems like a reversal of past trends, in which he garnered support from the majority of supervisors (all of whom were from the other parts of the county) and then solicited input from Newman and Patterson later.
Still, serious concerns about the project remain. Kamilos needs to prove that his project is viable, and he needs to show in concrete terms how impacts to the surrounding communities will be mitigated.
It’s those cities that will suffer the brunt of the impacts of traffic and rail entailed within Kamilos’ vision, while the tax dollars it generates would go into the county’s coffers.
It stands to reason that those who live closest to the project should have the biggest say on what happens with it. So far, Kamilos has failed to prove to the surrounding communities that West Park would do more good than harm.
That needs to change, and the county has a moral responsibility to seriously address West Side concerns.
Meanwhile, the city’s Economic Strategic Committee and council members should brainstorm about what they would like the Crows Landing project to become. It’s true that the airfield lies outside city limits, but it would have a huge impact on this community, and it would be wise for city officials to make their desires known.
A local contingent also needs to be on hand during the March 8 board of supervisors meeting, when Kamilos makes his next presentation.
As county staff members wait — and then wait some more — on West Park’s revised project description and environmental impact report, local residents have a golden opportunity to make their voices heard. It’s time to seize the opportunity to promote our vision for a project with major potential.