A Special Joint Turlock City Council and Turlock Planning Commission Meeting took place on May 25, 2010 that included a General Plan Update Workshop, “Future Turlock Growth: Concept Alternatives and Infrastructure Improvements.”
The workshop reviewed the four conceptual land use alternatives for the Turlock General Plan Update.
The results of a very high-level analysis of the potential impacts and benefits of the four land use alternatives was presented by Dyett & Bhatia Urban & Regional Planners and included potential environmental, transportation, infrastructure, public service, and fiscal impacts. No specific recommendation was proposed.
City Planning Staff was seeking comments from the City Council and Planning Commission on the range of alternatives and the impact assessment.
Unfortunately the meeting discussing the most important issue the City of Turlock is facing was only scheduled for one hour, ran into the regular scheduled City Council Meeting, and was rushed. TurlockCityNews.com tried to capture all the viewpoints noted during the meeting.
There will be another meeting soon to get further direction from the Turlock Planning Commission and Turlock City Council.
Four Plan Alternatives have been investigated and proposed; Alternative A: Southeast Only, Alternative B: Northwest Emphasis, Alternative C: Most Compact including southeast and northwest areas, and Alternative D: Moderate Compact including southeast and northwest areas.
Ultimately, the preferred land use plan may be one of the four conceptual land use alternatives, a combination of any of the four, or a completely new mix of land use types. Based on the comments and input received from the City Council and Planning Commission, staff and the consultant will attempt to develop a preliminary draft of the preferred land use plan for consideration at a future meeting.
Through the community workshops, there has not been a consensus on any of the four growth plan alternatives. The first meeting had about 100 and the last one had only 40 people in attendance.
Councilwoman Mary Jackson thought that the current infill projections of 3,500 to 5,000 housing units were a little low due to the expected demographics’ need for smaller and more affordable units.
Planners did state the 3,000 units was a projection with current zoning, the 5,000 units were based on certain zonings of specific areas, but that if Council decided to change the zoning than more units could be accommodated… maybe 6,000 but that additional units would still be needed to meet the projected growth of 45,000 people and 15,000 housing units.
Turlock Commissioner Soraya Fregosi questioned how long it would take before current vacant homes and lots would be filled.
Planners referred to housing trends going up and down in ten year cycles and that we’re down now, but this is a 20 year plan. It was stated that Turlock will need more land.
Councilman Ted Howze questioned how Turlock could phase in growth; so that certain areas could be developed first before others requiring major infrastructure improvements would be developed.
Councilman Howze had concerns about developing the southeast area because of a costly highway interchange needed.
Planners stated that 2/3 of the development in Alternative A could be done without relying on a new interchange.
Turlock City Planner Debbie Whitmore said that there can be planning policies but that this General Plan Update process is not there yet.
Councilwoman Amy Bublak stated one of her largest concerns was the roadways and that new roads can be kept up easier while the old roads within infill areas can’t be but need to be rebuilt and could drive up the cost of infill development.
Planning Commissioner Fregosi brought up the concerns about the continuing needs of roads in the middle of town such as Canal, and how to address those connecting roads to any new development.
Councilman Howze questioned how adding 7,000 to 9,000 housing units in southeast Turlock would not need major, costly infrastructure improvements to handle the traffic impacts to roads such as S. Berkeley.
Vice Mayor Kurt Spycher pointed out that to develop southeast Turlock, it would require combining around 100 small parcels and ranchettes.
Councilwoman Jackson was interested in staged growth because Turlock is still paying for the Fulkerth interchange improvements and that she doesn’t see how they can afford to improve other interchanges including Monte Vista.
Both Council Members Jackson and Howze agree that whichever plan is chosen, they believe Turlock needs to do what it can with the roads it has and at the most affordable cost.
Councilman Howze sees Alternative C as the most feasible, wants to put housing units near jobs, but wants to make sure that it grows with stages needing the most funding (most likely depleting Federal funds) last.
Planning Commission Chair Mike Brem had concerns with putting a “residential island” out west of the freeway would start to take away from the fabric of this city and that it’s a flag jumping the freeway with residential development.
Planning Commissioner Elvis Dias pointed out that it’s not much of a “commute” to the Westside Industrial Specific Plan (WISP) area where future jobs may be. Planning Chair Brem stated that his “commute” across town is 8 minutes. Councilman Howze agreed with the common sense reasoning but that Turlock’s planning for the future and doesn’t know what the State will require in the areas of greenhouse gasses and car emissions.
Councilman Howze really questioned the feasibility of all the alternatives by asking what would the average home cost, because no matter plan Turlock goes with, Howze was concerned about pricing his kids and other Turlockers out of the city. Howze was concerned about providing the community’s needs.
Planners will be bringing back more detailed information on this in the future.
Planning Chairman Mike Brem was advocating Alternative A but was interrupted as Mayor Lazar pointed out that the meeting could be continued because it ran over into the regularly scheduled Council Meeting.
Councilman Howze summed up with his interest in phased growth.
Leslie Gould, of Dyett & Bhatia Urban & Regional Planners, noted that If Council wants to restrict or expand growth, that’s a policy decision.
Jessie Orosco agreed with Councilman Howze in that Alternative C was the best choice because developing right to Merced County and with 3 or 4 wrecking yards, it would be difficult. Mrs. Orosco also advocated that Alternative C could include a fire station in the residential development that developers could pay for.
Axel Gomez spoke on behalf of the Development Collaborative Advisory Committee and pointed out that discussion only barely hit on regional shopping areas but was concerned about what they call “Regional Commercial” and that it doesn’t exist in Turlock, maybe only in reference but no place to put (referencing the Super Wal-Mart issue). This needs to be addressed because nobody will even talk to Turlock who wants to bring a project like that.
Gomez also addressed raising the building heights limit because the more units per acre would be more affordable. This would also contribute to more dense residential neighborhoods.
Downtown was a major focus for Gomez as he stated that Downtown is the center of Turlock and that revitalizing Downtown is a key point to economic development. Gomez pointed out that the further Turlock develops away from Downtown; it takes away from that community center.
Axel Gomez also addressed more detailed General Plan Update concerns such as development standards with landscape codes and such.
David Fransen 7,500 still available at the end of this 20 year General Plan. This Council and Planning Commission has not decided on what alternative stating how much we should grow. All scenarios are based on growing to a certain area and to accept the middle scenario of population growth, increasing population by 45,000 and 15,000 housing units. The low-end project is to grow by 30,000 so we don’t have to accept growing to 45,000 and that instead of needing 15,000 housing units, we could only need 10,000.
Fransen has been advocating infill only development throughout the General Plan Update process and pointed out that current and previous Councils have had trouble maintaining the roads they currently have, and that adding any more infrastructure or traffic to Turlock’s current system would not be sustainable. Fransen believes infill development would promote redevelopment because new projects would be fixing Turlock’s old roads as they occur. Fransen stated that infill only development promotes many of the goals this General Plan Update is trying to meet with building green, increasing density, creating walkable and bikeable communities and that it is the least costly scenario.
Trina Walley, Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association Executive Director, stated that it is really encouraging to hear ideas of infill development, building higher, and especially around the Downtown district. Walley pointed out that many of the second story units Downtown have been converted from residential to office space, which is good but takes away from the district’s “feet on the street” needed to support restaurants and retailers.
Diana Porter said was that I had attended all the meetings and I did not hear anyone which selected plan A. I feel Turlock should not put all their eggs in one basket by choosing plan A. We should provide housing for elderly within walking distance to shops and local resturants, for working people who can not afford cars and gasoline, and closer distance for those who work in other cities such as Pleasanton, Modesto, and so on. Mrs. Porter believes that many people do not want to live in south Turlock and that the city is forcing people to live there. Diana Porter also questioned if developers, builders, and realtors have been asked where they would like to build since they’re the ones selling the houses. Mrs. Porter said that this is a 20 year plan so Turlock shouldn’t just pick one area to build and that growth should occur everywhere so people have a choice. Mrs. Porter pointed out that Downtown has been focused on for twenty years and questions how much it’s grown. Diana Porter finished by saying that she didn’t have to live in Downtown to go Downtown.
Bob Endsley spoke advocating the protection of farmland as food will continue to be a precious commodity and being mindful of the future. Endsley believes that Globalization has never really had validity until now and thinks that it impacts Turlock.
Chris Kiriakou pointed out that Turlock is short when it comes to very low income housing and that Alternative C seems to favor opportunities to provide housing for very low income families. Kiriakou suggested that this issue be a major consideration in a phased manner for the cost of infrastructure to be minimalized.
Information from Dyett & Bhatia Urban & Regional Planners Future Turlock Growth: Concept Alternatives and Infrastructure Improvements Presentation
The current General Plan establishes land use and density regulations for all areas within the Spheres of Influence and according to current General Plan designations, the Study Area has an estimated 3,880 acres of vacant or underutilized land, with the potential to support 8,500 housing units and 22,600,000 square feet of commercial and industrial space.
Alternatives A (Southeast Only) and C (Most Compact) would require the least amount of agricultural land conversion, with an estimated 1,092 and 1,140 acres respectively.
Dyett & Bhatia Urban & Regional Planners presented a summary of the analysis report, prepared by Omni Means, regarding transportation impacts and required improvements for all four alternatives.
Taking into account all facets of this analysis, Alternative A would appear to be the most feasible of the four alternatives and would require the least initial transportation infrastructure to begin developing. A new roadway network would be needed in the southeast to avoid overburdening existing City streets, including north-south connections from S.R. 99, to and across Golden State Boulevard, and to Christoffersen Parkway. Prior to full build-out of the alternative, a new S.R. 99 interchange would be required southeast of Lander Avenue, and low-cost interchange improvements will be required at Taylor Road, Fulkerth Road, and Lander Avenue interchanges.
The second-most feasible of the alternatives is Alternative C, which would require a similar amount of new transportation infrastructure as Alternative A in addition to new roadways in the northwest including a medium-cost improvement at the Taylor Road interchange. Further study will be required to determine whether build-out of Alternative C will also require improvements to the Monte Vista interchange and a new interchange southeast of Lander Avenue.
A summary of the approximate costs for the major potable water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure for Alternatives A through D was provided.
For potable water, Alternative A has the lowest total cost and the lowest cost per acre of GPU growth area. This is primarily because the new wells near the northwest corner of the City would likely require treatment systems to remove arsenic, and treatment would not be needed for wells in the rest of the City. Providing potable water for infill development would be less expensive than for new annexed areas, because the infill would use the existing water distribution system, and the new annexations would require new distribution facilities. Also, most of the infill growth is in areas where arsenic treatment would not be needed, making infill growth less costly than growth in the northwest corner of the City.
For wastewater treatment at the Turlock Regional Water Quality Control Facility (TRWQCF), Alternative A has the lowest overall cost, but Alternative D has the lowest cost per acre.
For trunk sanitary sewers and pump stations, Alternative A has the lowest total cost and the lowest cost per acre of GPU growth area. This is primarily because the growth on the east side of the City should be able to gravity flow to the TRWQCF, whereas growth on the west side of the City will require one or two sewer pump stations. Because existing sanitary sewers are normally sized for full development of their tributary areas, infill growth often does not result in the need for new sanitary sewers. This usually makes sewer service for infill growth less expensive than growth in the new annexation areas.
1. For stormwater trunk drains and pump stations, Alternative C has the lowest overall cost (but followed very closely by Alternative A), while Alternative A has the lowest cost per acre. Infill development would be served by the existing storm drains and should not result in the need for new trunk storm drains, making infill growth less expensive than growth in the new annexation areas.
2. For stormwater detention basins, Alternative C has the lowest overall cost (but followed very closely by Alternative A). Alternatives A and C have essentially the same cost per acre, which are lower than for Alternatives B and D. Infill development would be served by the City’s existing detention basins, contributing to lower stormwater infrastructure costs than for growth in the new annexation areas.
3. The total potable water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructures costs range from $174 million to $213 million, with Alternative A having the lowest total cost. The total potable water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure cost per acre range from $46,200 per acre to $61,500 per acre, with Alternative A having the lowest cost per acre. Overall, infill development infrastructure costs would be lower than for growth in the new annexation areas.
4. These infrastructure costs and conclusions should be verified the through future preparation of more detailed utility master plans.
Development on land requiring annexation may produce serious fiscal deficits, and/or increased CFD fund charges, because of minimal property tax accruing to the City’s General Fund. If past annexation agreements are any indication, the City receives minimal property tax revenue from these areas, suggesting that growth through annexation may have negative implications on the General Fund compared with infill development. Stanislaus County currently receives approximately 11 percent of each property tax dollar. Consequently, this results in General Fund revenue of 3.3 percent, which is significantly less than the City’s current average of 8 to 10 percent of total property tax (not just the increment).
Development occurring within the City’s redevelopment areas generates tax increment to the City’s Redevelopment Agency but minimal “passthrough” revenue to the City’s General Fund. Most of the property tax from growth within the City’s redevelopment areas is diverted to the redevelopment agency, but the City’s General Fund does receive pass-throughs that vary by redevelopment area. In the amended redevelopment area, the percentage of tax increment that accrues to the City’s General Fund is just 5.9 percent (compared to a City-wide average of 8 to 10 percent). Given that portions of the redevelopment area extend beyond the City boundaries, the General Fund is likely to be particularly hard hit on future development that needs to be annexed and is in a redevelopment area.
3. The annual fiscal impact of residential development is sensitive to several factors. The value of the homes affect property taxes, property transfer taxes, average household income which impacts sales tax revenue, and motor vehicle in-lieu fees. This means that a home priced 10 percent higher than another is likely to generate more than 10 percent more in annual tax revenue. At this point, the alternatives are all similar, because they have the same number of units, and the more compact development in Alternatives A and C do not uniformly result in greater or lesser fiscal impacts. Some price discounting for higher density units may or may not occur, depending on underlying land value, the demand for higher density products, ownership vs. rental status, and many other factors.
Public service costs required by new residential development will also affect the results, particularly if the development is in an area of the City requiring a geographic expansion of services or if the amount of new development triggers demand for new public facilities (e.g., new fire station, new police beats, and new public works corporation yard). Alternatives B, C, and D will have significantly greater costs than Alternative A, because they require major new public facilities west of Highway 99. The costs associated with building public facilities can be significant, but are generally not funded through the General Fund. However, ongoing maintenance costs are typically funded through the General Fund and will be estimated as part of the fiscal impact analysis of the preferred alternative.
New retail uses produce substantial positive fiscal benefits, assuming that local or regional demand supports a net increase in taxable sales. Consequently, the significant amount of regional serving retail included in Alternatives B and D (which could also be added to Alternatives A and C) could provide a substantial fiscal benefit — but only if the new retail results in increased capture of local and regional sales. New retail development can have a significantly positive General Fund impact through the generation of sales tax. Alternatives B and D include significant new retail capacity in the northwestern portion of the City with frontage along Highway 99. This retail could be positioned to attract regional consumers from outside the City, thus increasing the capture of regional sales. This retail could also be added to Alternatives A and C, in either the north or south ends of the City along Highway 99.
However, to the extent that current demand is largely being met by existing businesses, and the new retail does not expand retail offerings to increase sales capture, the associated sales tax revenue may simply represent a shift of sales from existing businesses. Consequently, the benefit of new retail would be reduced or virtually zero. The demand for this additional retail is not likely to occur until at least 15 years or beyond, given the amount of vacant commercial retail land that already is in the City and improved for development, north and south of Monte Vista Avenue along Highway 99. However the City would need to designate the land in this General Plan, in order to ensure the commercial capacity for the long-term future.
Fiscal expenditures related to providing public safety services to the new development depend on the amount of new development and the geographic proximity of the new development to existing core service areas. If new development is planned for Northwest (or other) areas that are geographically separated from existing core service areas, it is likely that new police beats and or sub-stations, new fire stations, additional road miles, and the corresponding additional staffing and maintenance will be required. Conversely, for development that is more concentrated within the existing core service areas (i.e., infill development or small development projects near existing City boundaries), the focus may be more on providing incremental staffing and not necessarily on adding the high cost of new facilities.
The transportation and infrastructure analyses indicate that Alternative A is clearly the lowest cost alternative. Also, the analyses show that there are larger costs of locating new development in the Northwest (Alternatives B, C, and D) due to required new infrastructure and improvements to existing freeway interchanges. Alternative D is the highest cost alternative, because it is the lowest density, and thereby requires more infrastructure to serve the same number of units. This information is provided to assist in the overall decision-making process regarding the directions of growth, but is not an absolute determinant of the decision.
More detailed analysis of the transportation, infrastructure, and fiscal impacts will be prepared once there is general direction from the City Council about future land use growth areas, and work by City staff and consultants on a draft preferred General Plan Land Use map. The preferred plan may be one of the alternatives presented in this report, or it may be a combination of components of several of the alternatives. City Council will provide direction regarding the alternatives in hearings in May and June 2010. Then, the preferred General Plan land use map will be prepared during the summer of 2010, with work by City staff and all the General Plan consultants, to reflect the City Council direction and incorporate all the technical information from the infrastructure and fiscal studies.