The battle lines have been drawn, and at stake is the future of the 124-acre Staples Ranch site in eastern Pleasanton.

On one side stands the Friends of Pleasanton, a group of residents collecting signatures for an open space initiative to preserve Staples Ranch -- just south of Interstate 580 -- as a greenbelt between Pleasanton and Livermore. The initiative also sets aside 40 acres to accommodate a large auto mall.

On the other side stands Pleasanton First, a group of residents actively campaigning against the proposed initiative, which they call a misguided attempt to preserve land that Pleasanton does not yet own.

"Since we do not own this land, we do not control this land," said Pleasanton First co-chairman Dan Faustina.

Matt Morrison, who filed the initiative along with Anne Fox, city planning commission chairwoman, said Friends of Pleasanton feels the proposed Staples Ranch development is bad for Pleasanton, given its potential noise and traffic impacts on nearby neighborhoods.

Since the group began collecting signatures about four weeks ago, Morrison said Friends of Pleasanton has received a lot of support. And, even though the group technically filed two initiatives with the city, they are focusing their efforts on the second, the one involving Staples Ranch.

"There are a lot of people out there who are concerned about Pleasanton growth and traffic, and are looking for a way to express that," he said.

The city and the Alameda County Surplus Property Authority have been in talks for at least three years to annex Staples Ranch in to Pleasanton.

County officials are anxious to move forward with development of Staples Ranch, and county Supervisor Scott Haggerty has said that if the county can't work with Pleasanton, then it will turn to Livermore or Dublin for annexation into one of those cities. During the State of the County Address at the Livermore Chamber of Commerce luncheon July 26, Haggerty said he was tired of playing around with Staples Ranch.

"If the initiatives pass, Livermore can have this project and they can have the $3 million that goes along with it ... and if Livermore doesn't want it, Dublin certainly has said they'll take it," he said. "Let's be clear: This is an $85 million county asset that we are being messed around with over, and over, and over because of a small group of people."

Morrison said it's unlikely the county would turn to an adjacent city because it would take years to start over.

Pleasanton officials signed an agreement with Alameda County in 2006 that states the city will buy the property. In exchange, Pleasanton will consider, in a timely manner, development applications for the Hendricks auto mall, a senior continuing care facility, a community park and other commercial uses at Staples Ranch.

Members of Pleasanton First argue the Pleasanton Eastern Gateway Initiative, while setting aside land for the revenue-producing Hendricks auto mall, threatens the years of negotiations between the county, the city and the proposed developers.

On its Web site, Pleasanton First claims the Friends of Pleasanton initiative jeopardizes open space on Staples Ranch, ensures the land would be developed outside of Pleasanton, deprives residents of a large community park and all-weather sports fields, and eliminates much-needed senior housing.

"If we want open space and want to make those types of decisions for Pleasanton, we need to keep this (property) in our decision-making process and not another city's," Faustina said.

Members of Pleasanton First would like the council to adopt a resolution articulating its support of the agreement.

City officials have said they intend to honor their agreement with the county, and are moving forward as planned. The project is currently being reviewed for potential environmental impacts.

Meera Pal covers Pleasanton. Reach her at 925-847-2120 or mpal@bayareanewsgroup.com

STAPLES RANCH

For more information on Friends of Pleasanton and their proposed initiative, visit http://www.friendsofpleasanton.org.

For more information on Pleasanton First and opposition to the initiative, visit http://www.pleasantonfirst.org.