The Farmland Working Group reports that Turlock’s north “greenbelt” is an example of farmland protection in Stanislaus County. Supervisors voted no on development in ag buffer.
This is a portion of the Farmland Working Group Fall 2009 newsletter:
Local farmland advocates are often labeled dreamers and told, “This valley is destined to become another Los Angeles Basin.” Farmland Working Group has been spreading the word about our amazing resource – the most productive agricultural region in the world – for a decade.
Often our speech making and letter writing falls on deaf ears as poor land use policies move forward. Occasionally, the outcome is different, as was the appeal made to the Board of Supervisors in Stanislaus County on May 19, 2009.
In April, FWG member Jeani Ferrari spoke before the Turlock City Council, reminding members that plans to develop a golf driving range in the “greenbelt” north of Taylor Road were moving forward, stating, “Recently, the Stanislaus County Planning Commission approved a golf driving range in the agricultural buffer. The planning commissioners were not informed of the agreement between the City of Turlock and Stanislaus County. Over the years, commissioners have changed, as have supervisors and council members. In recent years, the document has been overlooked by staff, council, commissioners and supervisors.”
Ferrari told the council, “I recently attended a General Plan Update for the City of Turlock… The meeting room was at capacity. Each table of eight was asked to describe a ‘Dream Turlock’ – fifty years forward. Every table indicated that it wanted Turlock to grow compactly and be surrounded by agricultural land… A general theme of the Turlock General Plan is to maintain Turlock, Keyes and Denair as free-standing communities surrounded by productive farms and orchards…
If the farmland between Turlock and Keyes is to remain, the agreement must be honored. The agricultural buffer is small. If every few years a parcel is allowed to be urbanized, soon there will be no real buffer… There will be a tipping point at which the exception becomes the rule… I hope that the City of Turlock and the county will work together to maintain this important buffer.”
Ferrari followed through with a call to the City of Turlock Planning Department asking for a copy of the agreement. It wasn’t anywhere to be found. Staff asked, “When was it written?” Credit for coming up with a date for the original document can be given to Garth Stapley at The Modesto Bee – it was 1987.
On May 13, Ferrari sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors, Stanislaus County, asking to grant the Appeal for Condition Use Permit 2008-10 (thereby denying the project). The letter was read aloud by Ferrari at the hearing on May 19, 2009. Denny Jackman, Chair of Farmland Working Group, stated that farmland advocates frequently pointed to the official agreement as an example of “things that go right in Stanislaus County.”
Supervisor Chiesa, whose district includes Turlock, concluded that air-tight agreements on buffers between communities would help future decision makers to avoid such struggles. The vote was 3-2 with Chiesa, Grover and De- Martini voting to uphold the buffer.
Farmland Working Group wasn’t the only voice objecting to the project. Teri Nascimiento, whose family farms land adjacent to the proposed golf driving range, told the supervisors that their farming family didn’t want conflicts with urban development. “We feel if this is allowed it would just open the door to the future growth in this area.” The Stanislaus County Farm Bureau urged the supervisors to keep urban development out of the agricultural buffer. Neighbors in the Barnhart Road area between Keyes and Turlock signed a protest petition.
Supervisor Grover concluded, I couldn’t agree more that the city of Turlock needs a golf practice facility. But I don’t think it needs it here.”
The city council unanimously empowered Mayor John Lazar to lobby county Supervisor Vito Chiesa for clarification of the 1987 agreement to maintain an agricultural buffer between Turlock and the unincorporated community of Keyes.
Farmland Working Group
STRIVING TO PROTECT FOOD, FAMILIES AND FARMLAND
Our Mission: To preserve the agricultural foundation of our region and promote smart growth in our urban communities through education, outreach and action.