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Lodi expresses renewed support for creating greenbelt committee

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Posted: Monday, May 30, 2005 10:00 pm

The city of Lodi has expressed interest in restarting a greenbelt committee with the city of Stockton and San Joaquin County, officials said.

The committee, known as "2x2x2," consists of two elected officials from Lodi and Stockton, and two county Board of Supervisors.

Its goal was to establish a strip of land for agriculture and open space between Lodi and Stockton.

The committee disbanded in March 2004 after county supervisors squashed a plan to hire a consultant to determine the greenbelt's cost and location. "The issue seemed to be that Stockton was no longer interested," County Administrator Manuel Lopez said.

But at a recent lunch between Lodi Mayor John Beckman, City Manager Blair King, board Chairman Steve Gutierrez and County Administrator Manuel Lopez, Lodi officials suggested the committee start talking again, Beckman and Lopez said. A Stockton official said the city will listen.

On June 17, those four will meet again to discuss how to keep the land between Lodi and Stockton from being completely developed.

What happens from there remains to be seen.

County Supervisor Jack Sieglock of Lodi, who cast the only vote to keep the committee in 2004, wants to be part of the new talks.

However, "I don't want to meet just to meet," he said. "I want to meet so that we can come up with some tangible items to actually solve the problem."

That might include forcing developers to pay a fee to protect farmland or creating a real estate transfer tax when property is sold to finance the greenbelt.

For Stockton's part, no formal action has been taken to restart the committee, but the city would be open to possible future discussions, said Stockton's Community Development Director James Glaser.

Stockton, which is rapidly growing toward Lodi thanks in part to housing projects proposed by billionaire Alex Spanos, withdrew from the original committee because it wanted to look at greenbelts around all cities in the county, not just between Stockton and Lodi, Glaser said.

"It was a principle issue as to the scope of the project," he said.

Glaser added that Stockton's 2005-2035 general plan stops growth one-half mile south of Armstrong Road.

Stockton's citizens demonstrated their interest in the greenbelt when they passed the Agricultural Protection Ordinance in November 2004. In part it forces Stockton officials to cooperate with Lodi to create a greenbelt.

Voters in Lodi have not passed a greenbelt measure, said Jennifer Perrin, deputy city clerk, but the city does have its own greenbelt committee, whose progress was requested by county officials.

The Lodi committee would also like to see development stop a half-mile south of Armstrong Road between Highway 99 and I-5.

"They could piggyback on our efforts," Lodi City Manager Blair King said. "The more people that help out, the better it is."

Lodi's committee has not met since December 2004.

Contact reporter Cheryl Winkelman at cheryl@tracypress.com.

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