The City of Turlock has spent nearly three years gathering input and the information needed to update our communities General Plan. The Turlock City Council established the following vision statement back in 2009 for the General Plan: "Turlock will grow sensibly and compactly, maintaining its small town feel, while enhancing quality of life, meeting housing needs, and providing high quality jobs and recreation opportunities for its diverse population."
The General Plan is meant to establish a long range vision for how the city will grow and change over the next 20 years by providing direction for physical and economic development and infrastructure improvements. An overview of eight General Plan themes was reviewed at a public meeting on October 20, 2011, to give the big pieces and graphics of the plan.
General Plan themes included: 1) Agriculture and Growth Management, 2) Variety of Housing Types, 3) Business Attraction and Jobs, 4) Circulation System, 5) Sustainable Development, 6) Infill and Revitalization, 7) New Master Plan Areas and 8) Recreation and Culture.
Although there were questions about many of the topics, the main topics surround growth, which has been a subject of contention throughout the process with the public as well as the City Council and Planning Commission. The issue was discussed at a March 2011 Special Joint City Council and Planning Commission meeting when Commission Chair Mike Brem questioned the City Council’s direction to include southeast and northwest areas of growth. It was again discussed in August 2011 when the growth plan was supported by City Council.
The current proposed approved land use plan calls for growing southeast first and then northwest, only after 70 percent of the southeast is developed. Both areas would accommodate 18,000 housing units over the next 20 years of growth.
The growth plan is the most compact of the original four presented and takes into consideration the public’s input that they would like to see development split between both areas. Phase 1 of future development would focus on the Southeast and infill within the city boundaries. The reason for the focus on this area in the first phase is that the 3 areas identified could be developed with existing infrastructure and was on poorer farmland according to USDA soil mapping. Once 70% of those areas are built out development in the most southern areas of the southeast or the northwest could be built out. Both of these Phase 2 areas would require additional infrastructure such as interchanges.
"You’re painting a very positive picture toward one area, and totally discouraging people from hearing the facts about the west. They’ve got water, they’ve got the sewer, they’ve got the Fulkerth off ramp, and they’ve got the Monte Vista off ramp" said Diana Porter-Suckow, a real estate agent and owner of property in the Northwest and someone who has attended most of the General Plan meetings to speak in favor of Northwest development.
Michael Crowell, property owner in the northwest and former Turlock Irrigation District (TID) Director, also disagreed with development of the Southeast first by pointing out that the southeast is still good farmland and that the problem is not land but water. Crowell also had an issue with the density recommended in the plan saying, "You can’t tell people that they are going to live 20 to an acre."
Debbie Whitmore stepped in to steer the discussion away from the land use questions to open it up for other questions by saying, "If you’re trying to convince someone of a point, you’d be better off coming to the November 8th meeting."
Other questions that were raised were in regards to sidewalk and road widths, bike lanes and their connectivity to neighborhood centers, recreational amenities, community gardens and library expansion. The consultants from Dyett & Bhatia Urban and Regional Planners pointed out that the General Plan recommends complete streets which provide access to all modes of transportation. Other items such as amenities and the library expansion are included only in summary of what the community needs are and not the where and how to accommodate those.
When asked if they would recommend any changes from past development to make things better, Leslie Gould from Dyett & Bhatia said, "Turlock did a very good job compared to any other city in the central valley by having these planned developments for both commercial and residential. The only thing I would have recommended different is providing a little higher density for seniors, students and others that can’t afford the single family home."
In closing there were still questions from Porter-Sockow about the walkability of the plan for people in the Southeast.
"I like to be able to walk to the market or to a restaurant,” stated Porter-Sockow. “What do they have in the southeast? I would much rather be in an area that already has those things and to not give people that choice is crazy."
"We have talked to a lot of people," said Leslie Gould, "We’ve put together the best middle, the best variety of density that we can."
The General Plan draft will come back for Council and Planning Commission consideration at a special joint meeting on November 8, 2011, at 5pm at City Hall.