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From The Modesto Bee Online: Riverbank hopes development can be a positive

  • Subject: [cg] From The Modesto Bee Online: Riverbank hopes development can be a positive
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com (Adam Honigman)
  • Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2004 10:59:03 -0400

Adam Honigman sent you the following article
from The Modesto Bee Online (http://www.modbee.com)

You may read this article in its entirety at

This article is protected by copyright and may
not be printed or distributed for anything except
personal use.

Comments from Adam Honigman:

Buried in this article about "smart development" is a mention of the Riverbank Development's community gardening program as an attractive component. Interesting....
Adam Honigman

Riverbank hopes development can be a positive

Published: Monday, April 26th, 2004


RIVERBANK -- He left his post as planning manager in a city with strict limits on growth for a city with a population increasing five times as fast.

J.D. Hightower, Riverbank's community development director since January, says he came to raise expectations about development and what it can do for the city.

'Instead of making it a negative, make it a positive,' Hightower said.

'Everyone assumes that new development comes with more traffic, more people and that simple things like going to the store require getting in the car and waiting in long lines that take up more of people's valuable time,' Hightower pointed out.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Riverbank, he said, is 'in a good position' to plan growth. His priorities include improving parks and pedestrian ways, and working to brighten downtown.

Playing into Riverbank's favor, he said, are corner markets seemingly every few blocks in some parts of the city. Those markets are a keystone of so-called smart-growth planning centered on getting people out of cars.

A native of Ridgecrest in Kern County, 40-year-old Hightower's planning career has taken him from Fresno to San Diego counties and the cities of Vista, San Marcos, Escalon and Lodi.

For several years in the mid-90s, he worked in Indian gaming. He was general manager of the Rincon Casino in San Diego County and the now-closed casino on the Shingle Springs Rancheria in the Placerville area.

A decision to move his family to the San Joaquin Valley, where his wife is from and where he spent summers on his great-aunt's 40-acre farm, landed him in a job as an Escalon city planner in 1997. There, he helped start downtown revitalization.

He also worked on the city's purchase of development rights of 69 acres of agricultural land, mostly with federal and state grants, to keep it in production.

As Lodi embarked on its own plan to conserve agricultural land, Hightower joined that city in 2002 as planning manager. But the project has yet to get off the ground, in part, Hightower said, because it was pitched on a regional basis instead of individually to young farmers looking for money to buy equipment and land.

He said Riverbank was attractive partly because of its community gardening program, where children participate in small-scale vegetable farming so they can see what happens.

Riverbank's booming growth offers another opportunity, he said.

'If you actually have funding and a driving vision of where you want to go, a high rate of growth is beneficial because generally you get the capital sooner,' he said, referring to development fees, which equates to more money when the cost of inflation is worked in.

Plenty of plans are vying for city money.

Sidewalks along Highway 108 and downtown revitalization are priorities. Hightower lists expanding Jacob Myers Park on the northern side of the Stanislaus River as another goal. A master plan shows an amphitheater and picnic areas. It could become a regional draw, generating business along Highway 108 and downtown, he said.

Eventually, pedestrian paths could link Jacob Myers to other city parks, particularly Lorenzo Zerillo Park and Pioneer Park.

'Riverbank has wonderful parks; it's just a case of linking them up,' Hightower said, naming pedestrian access a leading request by residents.

'The thing about planning is that you are dealing with the built environment, and you have absolute control over it,' he said. 'The environment we are building now is not for us. What is the sort of world that is going to be inherited by my children and grandchildren?'


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