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Farmland Annexation Effort Bows Out of November Election

Watsonville City Council Member Daniel Dodge says he wants more time to generate support for the initiative.

A citizen-driven effort to annex farmland on the outskirts of Watsonville and develop it into a commercial hub will not go on the November ballot, Watsonville City Council Member and leader of the movement Daniel Dodge said Friday.

The deadline to turn in the required 1,500 signatures is Monday.

But the proposal is not dead. Dodge said he's gotten overwhelming support and has the signatures necessary on his petition to put the measure to a vote in November. He'd just like more time to get the word out.

"We've got a lot of support from a lot of people," he said Friday. "We want to build more bridges."

Dodge and his supporters are proposing , adding it to the city's reserves of land designated for commercial development. Known as the Sakata-Kett parcel, presently the land is actively farmed.

The proposal is staunchly opposed by the agriculture community.

Chris Enright, president of the , wrote a brief opinion in the Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture newsletter earlier this month:

In 2002, many stakeholders and 11 diverse organizations came together to discuss the future growth of the City of Watsonville. Measure U was the compromised agreement. This measure put aside three large parcels totaling over 500 acres of prime workable farmland to be developed. Without ever developing these three parcels, or the 22 other empty spaces on Main Street, Watsonville, Councilman Daniel Dodge is now eyeing more than 80 acres of prime working farmland to pave over. This is unneeded, unimaginative and divisive. We value our wetlands and open spaces, so why not value the very earth that feeds us?

Dodge's perspective, also shared in the Chamber newsletter, said "Watsonville needs jobs! ... This petition will allow for a major new shopping center that will generate new tax revenues for Watsonville to provide more important services like police, fire, library, parks and recreation."

Dodge would like to see it developed into retail space, for business such as the  and  that city residents desperately want. If successful, the development would offer more jobs——and increase the city's sales tax base.

People are supportive, the council member said. The Register-Pajaronian newspaper reported earlier this month that Julian Posadas, former organizer for AFSCME, was leading the signature-gathering effort in the city with a team of 15 volunteers. They have been walking neighborhoods and knocking on doors.

"I got to tell you, in all honesty, I get very few people who tell me no," Dodge said.

Dodge said it's likely his group would put the initiative to a vote of Watsonville residents in 2013. November's ballot will be heavy with tax issues, including a  and the .

"November is really crowded," he said, expressing concern that the annexation proposal could get overlooked by voters at that time. "... We feel it's that important for the growth of our community, it deserves attention."

To contact Dodge for more information, email  responsiblechange.wats@gmail.com or call (831) 786-6632.

Erendira Guerrero June 29, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Well, I have to say that I disagree. Can we affort to give up more farm land? Our children are suffering from health problems due to poor nutrition and we rather give up a fresh food resource for an IN and Out???? Creating jobs is a great idea, but we have so many vacant buisness spaces already, why not start there?GOTCHALKS onld building??? I don't think we can affort to give up MORE of our farmland. Let's really think about this....
Patricia July 14, 2012 at 04:20 AM
Killing the farmland is no solution to the need for jobs. We are an agricultural valley and so many people depend on our supplying their produce. I agree with Erendira Guerrero that we have empty buildings that should be considered before planning any future buildings. If you build them and they don't come, then what? Then you end up with more empty buildings. Imagine how many small local businesses that have been faithful to this community will die as a result of big boxes coming in and all the people who will be left jobless. You are not going to create more jobs. You are going to create more empty buildings because people will not come to this community when they can already shop in the nearby communities that are already established. As for more fast foods, who needs them when we are complaining that we have a problem here with obesity? Fix the problems we have already before trying any big plans.

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