Fresno and Madera counties are asking the governor's office to mind its own business when it comes to the Valley -- words that are not sitting well with the state.
In a joint letter sent to the state Office of Planning and Research, the top executives from the two counties rejected an offer from Sacramento to help the area ease rising tensions over local development.
State officials had been meeting with Valley leaders in hopes of resolving disagreement between the counties and the city of Fresno over where the region's growth should occur.
The city wants new homes and businesses located in its long-neglected downtown and nearby. The counties want to build in the wide-open fields and foothills north of the city.
Multiple lawsuits surround the conflict, with another on the way as Madera County supervisors agreed last month to sue the city over the proposed El Paseo shopping and entertainment complex near Herndon Avenue and Highway 99.
JOHN WALKER / THE FRESNO BEE
In a January 2012 file photo, a water tanker keeps the dust down as large earth-moving equipment descend on the site of a Walmart Supercenter on Herndon Avenue, east of Clovis Avenue.
That's the kind of local issue, Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea said, that doesn't need outside intervention: "If we wanted help from Sacramento, we would have asked for it."
On that note, Fresno and Madera counties have scheduled a joint meeting next week to pursue their vision for regional growth. They intend to take up plans for development along the San Joaquin River and in the Friant foothills north of the city. On the agenda is a new bridge across the river and possible light rail to accommodate tens of thousands of new residents.
Brown administration officials were stunned to learn that the counties don't want the state involved in the conversation.
In a response to the counties' letter, the director of the Office of Planning and Research, Ken Alex, wrote last week that he is "surprised" and "disappointed" that the state's participation was rejected.
The letter says that the state and counties have common interests when it comes to growth, such as the pursuit of high-speed rail, and the parties are best served by working together. The letter also suggests that the state has leverage that the counties can benefit from, such as a say over tax dollars.
While the governor's Office of Planning and Research has historically provided only technical assistance to cities and counties, namely on planning issues, the statewide push for smart growth has motivated the office to take a more active role in urging sustainable development.
The initial meetings between state and local leaders were private. But participants reported no progress resolving the differences of opinion.
On Feb. 26, the two counties sent their letter to the state, indicating that they wished to discontinue the dialogue.
Perea said he believes that city officials merely tapped the state to take their side of the dispute and lobby for growth within the city instead of on the outside.
"They were going to try to use OPR as leverage against us," Perea said. "They were frustrated that they were not successful in their litigation, to date."
The city has filed suits against Fresno County for approving Friant Ranch, a 2,500-home project near Millerton Lake, and against Madera County for approving Tesoro Viejo, a 5,200-home community across the river.
Developers consider study of Fresno-Friant corridor
With a new college and thousands of homes planned near Millerton Lake, Fresno County leaders have begun looking at whether the rural stretch between the lake and the city of Fresno may be ready for development.
Old agreement on growth clouds new deal between city of Fresno, Madera County
Here's a curveball for city of Fresno officials trying to broker an agreement with Madera County over growth: There's already a five-year-old plan in place from a previous dust-up. And that's left some, notably officials in Madera County, wondering why they should bother with a whole new deal.
Madera County to meet with Fresno over competing growth plans
Madera County leaders agreed Tuesday to sit down with the city of Fresno to try to resolve their regional dispute over development.
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