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Developers pour money into Mendocino County ballot measure

Developers attempting to bypass Mendocino County?s planning process by taking their shopping center project to voters in the Nov. 3 election have outspent their grassroots opponents almost 10-1.

Ohio-based Developers Diversified Realty and Texas developer David Berndt have spent $724,600 on a campaign to gain voter approval to construct up to 800,000 square feet of commercial buildings on 80 acres just north of Ukiah. It would be the county?s largest commercial development.

They?ve contributed $800,000 toward the effort, according to campaign finance reports submitted last week.

Their local opponents ? Save Our Local Economy ? had spent $75,124 to defeat Measure A, according to campaign finance reports. They?d raised $91,815.

Brian Sobel, a spokesman for the proposed project ? dubbed Mendocino Crossings ? said the campaign isn?t paying attention to its opponents? expenditures.

?Our goal is to get to each voter and give them information,? he said.

The opponents are concerned about the expenditure imbalance, but note that corporations have previously attempted to sway Mendocino County voters and failed. The most recent example is a 2004 campaign by agribusiness companies that failed to defeat a ballot measure banning genetically modified organisms in the county.

?They?ve spent the dough and it might impress some people,? said Potter Valley farmer and winemaker Guinness McFadden. But ?I think most people are seeing through it.?

Both sides have numerous reasons their side should win and there has been much mudslinging as Election Day approaches.

But at the center of the debate is whether the county?s economic destiny should be decided through the ballot box or the traditional planning process.

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