After considering the issue for about four years, the Turlock City Council has made a decision regarding the greatly anticipated 2012 General Plan, in a 4-1 vote, to follow the Planning Commission’s recommendation to not grow west of Highway 99.
The Special Meeting was held at 4:30pm on Tuesday, September 11th, at City Hall, and was widely attended by concerned community members, many of which expressed sentiments opposing residential growth in the northwest region of Turlock.
“We cannot keep growing infinitely,” stated a community member during the public comment period. “We need to consider smart growth, urban sprawl, and a loss of community character.”
Many of the community members who attended the meeting expressed concerns regarding the loss of farmland, which was approximately 1,950 acres of farmland loss, should the Council vote in favor of the Preferred Plan Update.
“We should be paying more attention to how to save water and increase our productivity rather than our population,” stated Turlock resident Bob Endsley. “We really shouldn’t have such a high population here, if that’s what we’re trying to do.”
While the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) showed that significant impacts to the environment could be mitigated, it also showed that some conversion of farmland to urban uses is inevitable to meet the community growth needs.
The 2012 General Plan will direct the city’s growth over the next 20 years.
The Council voted in favor of Alternative 1, the same alternative plan update that the Planning Commission voted in favor of on Thursday, September 6th.
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.
“On a strictly cost effective basis, rooftops are not the answer,” stated Councilman Forrest White, in regards to the proposed new master plan for residential development west of highway 99.
Councilwoman Mary Jackson also stated that there needed to be an emphasis on infill development, and expressed concerns about expanding residential development on the Westside of the freeway due to the lack of infrastructure, schools, and water.
Council Candidate Steven Nascimento also took the podium during the public comment period to express his opinion on the matter.
“As a citizen, growth is something that is very important to me,” stated Nascimento. “The general plan process is set up to include the community in the vision on how a community should grow. The community has made it clear that [they] do not want to grow west of the 99.”
After the conclusion of the presentation on the Final EIR, the Council was brought to a vote.
“I’ve always been opposed to new homes on the west of the freeway,” stated City Mayor John Lazar. “And the discussion of growing industrial next to residential, that really becomes an issue for those residents. In terms of our business park, I have to say our new users out there would not be happy with residents out there.”
While the Council seemed to agree that west of the highway is suitable for new businesses and the industrial region with the construction of the new Blue Diamond Almond factory, many of the Council members were weary of the Preferred Update’s new master plan which would place residential development within that area.
“We need to grow smart,” stated Councilwoman Mary Jackson. “And housing west of the 99 right now is not the way to go about it at this point.”
“We’ve got to be considering the whole picture,” stated Councilman Bill DeHart. “It’s not a ‘no-growth’ position, just a ‘not-right-now’ position.”
Councilwoman Amy Bublak, however, felt that to not grow west of the 99 would be a ‘short-sighted’ decision.
“To only work in the southeast, it seems short-sighted,” stated Bublak, in regards to not building in the Northwest region.
The Council voted in favor of Alternative 1, with Councilwoman Mary Jackson, Councilman Forrest White, Councilman Bill DeHart, and Mayor John Lazar voting in favor of the resolution, and Councilwoman Amy Bublak in opposition, thus sending the resolution forward with a 4-1 vote.
City staff will be working on preparing the chosen alternative as the new General Plan Update, and will present it to the Council at their next regularly scheduled meeting on September 25th.
For more information on the General Plan Update, visit www.gpupdate.turlock.ca.us.