Lodi News Sentinel
October 7, 2011

A long-term plan detailing how Harney Lane will grow from two to four lanes over the next 30 years hit a snag when two property owners voiced concerns over how the plan could harm their businesses.
The Lodi City Council heard a report on the plan Wednesday night, but delayed any action until a meeting in December after hearing the concerns.

Harney Lane is divided into four sections in the plan. City spokesman Jeff Hood said the only portion city staff believes will be developed in the next decade is from West Lane to South Stockton Street.

That part of the plan will require a grade-separated junction because there are railroad tracks that cross Harney Lane.

Steve Herum, a Stockton-based attorney representing the two business owners, said the plan could put a family-owned farm and cherry packing business in jeopardy.

The F&L Costa cherry orchard has operated for 50 years at the southeast corner of Harney and West lanes. The current plan for the section of Harney Lane near their farm would cut off access from that street into the orchards. For three months during packing season, the plant receives 30 to 50 trucks a day.

Herum said he would like the city to reinstate previous plans that the family received copies of and were shown at a previous meeting. The plans include acceleration and deceleration lanes that would provide access to the property off of Harney.

But Public Works Director Wally Sandelin said those plans were mistakes and the engineers do not support that concept.

The Costa family requested the city to hold off on adopting the final plan until the issue of access is resolved.

“The Costa family has never opposed the Harney Lane project just to oppose it. They are not here to kill the project,” Herum said.

The business provides 550 jobs, and Herum said the council needs to remember it is always advocating for jobs and to preserve agriculture.

“This is a regulation that is hanging over their operation. What are they going to do? How are they going to proceed? Are they going to spend more capital there?” he said.

Councilwoman JoAnne Mounce said she wants the issue resolved before moving forward.

“We have to be sensitive for as long as this business is a viable, working business so we don’t impede their ability to do business,” she said.

The council asked staff to work with Herum and the Costa family on a compromise and report back on the results at a Dec. 19 meeting.

“We have a high level of confidence that we will be able to find a solution that will meet the needs of the community and the Costa family,” he said.

Herum also represents the Tsutsumi family, who own an 11-acre wine grape vineyard. The family is worried that the city is going to take land that will disrupt their irrigation lines, which would mean they would no longer be able to operate.

Herum said the family wants the city to purchase the entire 11 acres if they move forward with the plan.