On Thursday, September 6, 2012, the Turlock Planning Commission voted unanimously in opposition to the growth plan proposed for the Turlock General Plan Update, in efforts to ensure that limited farmland wouldn’t be subject to development over the next 20 years, as to avoid Urban Sprawl.
The vote came after discussing the need to protect the farmland that is located on the West side of Highway 99, which according to the presented preferred Growth Plan Update, would become subject to being transformed for the purpose of residential growth.
The preferred option, which the Commission voted against, proposed six new master plans for future neighborhood developments – five in Southeast Turlock, and one in the Northwest area.
“Turlock residents have consistently stated their support of prime Ag land preservation, infill, and sustainable development,” stated Commissioner Soraya Fregosi. “We commissioners are appointed by the City Council to make a recommendation on any given issues after public hearings which give our residents, in this Growth Plan Update process in particular, several opportunities to voice their concerns or make their vision of our city known.”
Throughout the 4 year-course of creating the General Plan Update, the Planning Commission has held various workshop meetings for the public to attend and participate in, as to allow their voices and input to be heard.
“We take their input very seriously which helps us arrive at the recommendation that reflects our community’s desires/vision,” she stated.
The Commission was presented with four options, including the Preferred General Plan Update, as recommended by City Staff, and three Alternative Growth Plans. Although staff recommends approving the preferred land use plan, the Commission is allowed to recommend the Turlock City Council to adopt an alternative land use plan instead, as the Commission did on Thursday.
“Alternative 1 would be the most logical growth projection,” stated Planning Commission Chairman Mike Brem. “We’re growing because it’s an area we’re comfortable growing into.”
Brem also shared sentiments of the City having the responsibility of making the most of the land and water use within the city boundaries.
Other considerations the Commission reviewed included areas such as the economy housing market, aging population, traffic, infrastructure costs, and jobs.
Preferred Land Use Plan – Rejected
The Preferred General Plan would support 126,800 residents, and 44,100 housing units at maximum buildout, an increase of about 79 percent over the current population estimate of 71,000. It would also use approximately 1,950 acres of farmland. The Planning Area of the Preferred General Plan occupies 29,800 acres of 46.5 square miles. The preferred General Plan would accommodate a further 20,600 housing units through new development and infill development. Most of the new residential developments are expected to be compact, multi-use master planned neighborhoods in the Southeast and Northwest areas.
Alternative 1 – Chosen Alternative
Alternative 1 could support a total of some 104,500 residents and 53,800 jobs, leading to a jobs/employed residents ratio of 1.29. The population that this alternative could support essentially meets Turlock’s low-end population projection for 2030 of 106,000 residents. This alternative produces the fewest number of housing units, new residents, and jobs compared with the proposed project and Alternative 2, but more than the No Project Alternative. Alternative one would also use only 1,015 acres of farmland, and keep residential growth on the east side of Highway 99.
Alternative 2 – Rejected
Alternative 2 could support a total of approximately 114,800 residents and 57,700 jobs, leading to a jobs/employed residents ratio of 1.26. This alternative produces the greatest number of housing units, new residents, and jobs compared with Alternative 1 and the No Project Alternative, but less than the Preferred Land Use Plan. This alternative would support the mid-point population projection for the City of 115,000 in the year 2030.
No Project Alternative – Rejected
The No Project Alternative would assumes continuation of land development under the existing General Plan and the current Zoning Ordinance, which implements the General Plan. Similar to Alternative 2, this would result in development of the full southeast quadrant of the Study Area, but with a development pattern and low overall densities and intensities. Even though it covers the same land area as Alternative 2, the No Project alternative would actually add the fewest number of new housing units and jobs of any alternative due to its lower overall density and intensity of development. The No Project alternative would support 36,100 housing units, approximately 101,600 residents, and 49,100 jobs (a jobs/employed residents ratio of 1.21). This alternative would fall short of meeting the low-end population projection of 106,000 residents by the year 2030.
While the Commission voted unanimously to reject the proposed Preferred General Plan Update, and in favor of Alternative 1 as a recommendation, ultimately the decision will be left in the hands of the City Council members.
“As a Commissioner, I feel confident in the recommendation we made to the City Council,” stated Fregosi.
While Commissioner Fregosi is confident in the Planning Commission’s representation of the citizens of Turlock and the recommendation to the Turlock City Council, Council Members have rejected the majority of citizen input and the Planning Commission’s past recommendations to not grow west of the freeway.
On March 29, 2011, at a special joint City Council and Planning Commission Meeting, Councilman Forrest White, after a unanimously polled Planning Commission opposed or had concern with building houses west of the freeway, motioned to spend $40,000 to redo the plan. Councilwoman Mary Jackson supported the motion to not include the northwest residential growth in the General Plan Update. The motion failed.
Councilwoman Amy Bublak motioned that there be no change to the preferred land use and to direct staff to evaluate the two alternative preferred land use plans approved by the Turlock City Council on August 23, 2010 to be studied for the EIR. Councilman Bill DeHart and Mayor John Lazar voted in support of the motion study the northwest residential growth.
“Really, no choice has been made,” summarized Mayor Lazar at the meeting in March of 2011. “This process is moving forward.”
The City Council will be holding a special meeting where they will again hear the Turlock Planning Commission’s recommendation, consider public speakers and input, then vote on the Turlock General Plan proposal at a Special Council Meeting on Tuesday, September 11th, at 4:30pm, at City Hall.
Information regarding the Turlock General Plan, including maps and photos, can be found at www.gpupdate.turlock.ca.us.