Winters developer Greg Hostetler pledges to pull out of plans if community wants

Bellevue North 250 developer Greg Hostetler. (Photo by Matthew Keys)

The following was distributed as a press release under the subject line: “Exclusive: Greg Hostetler says he’ll abandon North Winters development plans if community wants”

The owner of more than 800 acres of land in an unincorporated portion of Yolo County that could be annexed into the city of Winters said he had no intention of developing homes when he purchased the land years ago to farm, but was encouraged to consider plans for residential and other development by city officials early on.

The remarks were made by developer Greg Hostetler during an exclusive 90-minute interview with former Winters Express journalist Matthew Keys. The interview was conducted on May 28 shortly after Keys left the newspaper; he stayed on in a freelance capacity as a reporter-at-large for an additional two months while researching claims made by Hostetler and city officials related to possible plans for north area development.

Hostetler is best known for owning land in Central California that he primarily uses for ranching and farming. He also operates a handful of residential development businesses in the Merced and Fresno areas.

During the interview in May, Hostetler said he purchased land in unincorporated Yolo County north of Winters more than a decade ago after the land was foreclosed on during the recession. He said the land was primarily purchased to farm, and that it was not his intention to build homes in the Winters area.

Hostetler said city officials approached him with the idea of building homes because “we need to develop a certain amount because we need a certain amount of growth to keep our community healthy.”

“I said, well, I’m okay with that, but I said I’ve done a lot of pioneering at my age, in my time, and I don’t intend to do pioneering over here,” Hostetler remarked during the interview. “So I will move forward at the right time if the community and the city wants to move it forward.”

The interview was conducted several months after city council members expressed concern over discussions that were had behind closed doors with Hostetler, Bellevue North representative Jeffrey Roberts and city officials concerning potential annexation and development plans. Though City Manager John Donlevy said no plans have been formally submitted by Hostetler, city officials did provide the developer and his associates with advance copies of draft economic reports. Earlier this year, the city received a substantial check of more than $10,000 from Roberts, the Express newspaper reported in April.

One month later, Hostetler told Keys that he was open to the idea of converting his land from agriculture use to development, but only if community members wanted it.

“Through the entitlement process if there’s biting dogs, I’m going home, because I don’t need it,” Hostetler said. “I don’t need to develop anymore land. I’ll develop [unintelligible] as the city and the community wants it and the way they want it. And they can be involved in the designing and the planning of it, and when they get done, if it works, we’ll do it. If it doesn’t work, we’ll just keep farming.”

While working on a series of stories about the Hostetler interview, the Express abruptly decided to end its freelance relationship with Keys at the end of July. After both sides failed to reach an agreement over the interview, Keys informed the newspaper’s staff he intended to release the full audio of the interview publicly.

An except from the 90-minute audio interview with Hostetler is available to stream or download by clicking here. Additional excerpts from the interview will follow in the coming weeks, and the full audio of the interview will be available by the end of September. A transcript of Hostetler’s remarks as heard in today’s audio excerpt is available by clicking here.

City officials are planning to hold a public workshop on potential annexation and development plans for north Winters on August 21. Information and related documents about the planning workshop is available by clicking here.