Fresno, Madera counties hope to make peace with the city

FRESNO, Calif.

Madera Supervisor Max Rodriguez says the rural county must attract more people.

"Madera has to grow, we need it we need jobs, and if we are going to do better we have to have that in the future."

But Rodriguez and the rest of his board seem to feel the city of Fresno's lawsuits against their plans to develop the Rio Mesa area, North of Fresno are an effort to hem them in and keep them poor.

Fresno County has a similar argument. The city is suing over the counties proposed Millerton new town project north of Friant , Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea says it's time to settle the issue.

"There's no question when governments start suing each other there is a problem."

That statement comes despite the fact Fresno County actually sued Madera County over the same development. But later dropped the action.

The city of Fresno maintains these county projects amount to urban sprawl.

City Manager Mark Scott told the joint meeting the city is trying to direct growth inward as one way to stop economic decay.

"How do we deal with the problems in our old, existing neighborhoods with the poverty… and we're the second highest ranking city in the country as it relates to urban poverty and we've got to deal with those parts of our community too."

And Sharon Sharpe, of Fresno Metro Ministries questioned both counties growth plans.

"We are also not quite convinced yet that new towns with urban centers are a good idea."

The concerns over these "new towns" include fears they will lead to increased traffic and air pollution."

But, all sides did indicate a willingness to try and get past the legal disputes.

Scott said, "I agree with all of you that there's no excuse for us not sitting down and resolving these things."

Perea was encouraged.

"I think one of the big outcomes today the county of Fresno the county of Madera will go and meet with the city of Fresno to see if we can't settle the lawsuits."

But no date for that meeting has been set.

Whatever the outcome Rodriguez says Madera County is pressing ahead with aggressive growth plans.

In addition to the developments just north of the Fresno city limits, the county is vying to become the site of a maintenance facility for the California High Speed Rail project, and a proposal to build Indian Casino along Highway 99 appears close to becoming a reality.

"If we get the maintenance yard and the casino working together you will not recognize Madera in 15 years."

Both the Casino and High Speed rail projects face legal challenges.

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