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Planning for the future of Turlock

POSTED August 28, 2012 9:29 p.m.

I am in the midst of planning an extended family camping trip — a venture that will, hopefully, include at least six different households and bring cousins together for more than just a few hours of chit chat. Family reunions and get-togethers are nothing new; it’s been an American tradition for decades. The trouble I’m encountering is getting my family members to commit to a date that is far enough in the future to guarantee the number of camping sites we’ll need in a nice location.

Government bodies do not have the luxury of putting off planning for the future. They are constantly in the midst of updating housing plans, zoning plans, transportation plans, and — in regards to the City of Turlock, its General Plan.

The final draft of the city’s General Plan Update was presented to the Turlock City Council on Tuesday, a document which will govern Turlock’s growth through 2030.

The General Plan was drafted to accommodate a population growth of approximately 126,800 people at buildout, an increase of about 78 percent over the current estimated population, or 55,400 new residents. Over a 20-year period, this represents an average annual growth rate of 2.9 percent, a slightly higher rate than that experienced over the last 20 years, which was about 2.6 percent.

Most of the future residential growth is slated for five new master planned neighborhoods in the southeast area of the city, and one new neighborhood for the northwest — something that has long been in contention.

The debate on whether or not to allow growth in the northwest drew fire from those who want to protect the farmland in northwest Turlock, which is among the best land in the nation, per U.S. Department of Agriculture designations, and those looking to keep the options open for whatever the future might bring.

I am all for preserving our valuable farmland — however, I have to agree with what Mayor John Lazar said during a November 2011 City Council meeting:

“I would rather be prepared than not prepared,” Lazar said. “This is a prospective document. You have to look to the future and plan for the future.”

When California State University, Stanislaus was founded over 50 years ago, campus construction was planned for a piece of land that was then on the outskirts of town — literally, in the middle of almond orchards.

Today, the campus’ Monte Vista Avenue — or University Way, depending on who you ask — is one of Turlock’s main thoroughfares. The campus is surrounded by a mix of apartment homes, housing developments and businesses. This is probably what planners had hoped for when breaking ground in 1965, and should be the type of growth that Turlock aspires to in the future.

I support keeping all options open so that when the opportunity for university-size growth comes around, we’re ready.

Yes, growth to the southeast of town makes sense environmentally, fiscally and aesthetically. Leaving the “old” part of town to fall into blight, while building in prime farmland is not good for anyone. Creating too restrictive of a plan, however, could mean the difference between Turlock becoming the hub of new industry and that industry — and its tax dollars and employment opportunities — moving on down the road a ways.

Turlock’s General Plan Update is available to review online at http://www.gpupdate.turlock.ca.us/index.html. Final adoption of the General Plan by the Turlock City Council is scheduled for a special, 4:30 p.m. Sept. 11 meeting in the Yosemite Room of Turlock City Hall.

 

This column is the opinion of Kristina Hacker and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.

 

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