Retired Tracy auto dealer Stan Morri served on the San Joaquin County Planning Commission for 34 years. That long tenure ended at his final meeting on Dec. 17.
His length of service on the commission was impressive, but even more so was his attendance record: missing only seven of the 640 meetings held during his time on the commission.
“I stayed on the commission all those years because I felt it was an important duty for citizen participation in county government,” Morri said. “Planning commissioners make important decisions and also recommendations to the board of supervisors.”
He enjoyed his years on the commission, “but I knew the time had come for me to step down,” said the 95-year Morri, a native of Richmond and a Tracy resident for a half-century.
At his last meeting, on the Certificate of Recognition for his 34 years of service to the county, San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors praised Morri for taking part in more than 600 meetings while serving several county supervisors who had appointed him to four-year terms on the commission.
Morri was first appointed to the county’s planning commission on Oct. 7, 1986, by then Supervisor Evelyn Costa of Tracy.
“I had served a year on the Grand Jury, and Evelyn knew I had committed the time it takes to be an effective Grand Jury member,” Morri said. “She knew being on the planning commission takes a lot of time, too, and appointed me to succeed Tracy farmer Steve Arnaudo, who had decided to resign because of other commitments.”
Morri was reappointed to four-year terms by Costa and succeeding supervisors of the 5th Supervisorial District. The appointments were ratified each time by all five members of the Board of Supervisors.
One of the first duties for former Tracy Mayor Bob Rickman, who was sworn in as the new 5th District supervisor earlier this week, will be to appoint a successor to Morri.
The Certificate of Recognition presented to Morri on Dec. 17 and signed by outgoing 5th District Supervisor Bob Elliott noted Morri’s participation in “successful review and approval of two major General Plan updates and the master planning and development of the Mountain House community.”
Morri said choosing Mountain House as the best location for a new town in the county was one of the most important decisions forwarded to the board of supervisors by the planning commission during his 34 years on the commission.
“There were five sites competing to be selected, and after careful study we felt Mountain House was the best one,” he said. “It’s location at the foot of the Altamont Pass meant that commuters to the Bay Area could access Interstate 580 in a matter of minutes without causing more traffic congestion on I-205 and other Tracy area traffic problems.”
Morri said Tracy City Manager Mike Locke and City Council members had said, “Don’t vote for that, but I did, and it has worked out very well. I’ve been very impressed by the quality of Mountain House’s development.”
Morri noted that a number of land-use decisions, especially when farmland is proposed for development, can be extremely contentious.
“Every time you approach the farm community with a proposal to convert farmland to a development site, the Farm Bureau is right there, saying ‘Don’t do it.’ Many times we didn’t do it, but sometimes we did.”
Morri said maintaining the county’s agricultural economy while providing land for development requires careful consideration of a proposal’s location and impact.
“Those decisions are not easy, but as the county’s population has grown to more than 700,000, you have to have homes for them to live in,” he said.
On a number of issues, people on one side or another contacted Morri and other planning commission members to plead their case.
“I told them that I’ll listen to them, but I’ll keep an open mind and won’t make a decision until I’ve learned all the facts and examined the issues. Often those decisions are difficult, and on occasion, I had to vote against personal friends, and they’re still friends.”
In his 34 years on commission, Morri served as chairman only once, starting three years after he had joined the commission.
“I didn’t want to focus my attention on conducting the meetings,” he said, “but I’ve been continuing chairman of the sub-committee charged with recommending who should be the next chairman. I’ve had a lot to say about who will become chairman.”
Morri and his wife, Eileen, are continuing to live in their home in the Fairhaven area south of town. And while he will no longer be making trips to planning commission meetings in Stockton, he still remains interested in what the commission is considering, and deciding.
“I’ve asked them to put me on the mailing list for commission agendas, minutes and reports,” he said. “I’ll keep abreast of what they’re doing.”
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.