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Turlockers support differing plans for city growth

POSTED January 29, 2010 11:31 p.m.
Turlockers gathered at the Senior Center on Thursday evening to help plan the Turlock of 2030 — a future that calls for about 45,000 new residents and 15,000 new homes — but little consensus was reached as to which direction the city should grow.
Representatives from Dyett & Bhatia Urban & Regional Planners, the San Francisco based firm the City of Turlock has hired to perform the state-mandated General Plan Update, presented about 60 Turlockers with four growth alternatives that would use a mix of land available to the northeast and southwest of Turlock.
Any growth, however, would involve expanding onto prime agricultural land, as the city is completely surrounded with farming.
“As the city grows it takes farmland. And it takes good farmland,” said Leslie Gould, Principal with Dyett & Bhatia Urban & Regional Planners.
Some residents advocated expanding solely to the southwest, as that growth scenario would use none of the prime northwest farmland and encourage the use of downtown by placing residents nearby.
“If we did anything but Alternative A (the southwest-only growth alternative), it would undermine the success of the city,” said resident Jeani Ferarri.
Others opposed growth to the southwest, noting traffic problems generated by placing residents away from Monte Vista Crossings, costs of developing the area, and the southwest’s high water table. These residents generally supported a mix of growth to the northeast and southwest — in varying densities and distribution — due to proximity to shopping a perceived reduced impact on streets.
Planners will present the Turlockers’ varying opinions to the Planning Commission and City Council in March, when they will ask the City Council to narrow down the list of growth alternatives for further study. Before that meeting, planners will continue to investigate the infrastructure demands and issues facing each growth alternative.
“It’ll be interesting to see what the City Council says,” Gould said.
Despite the disagreement on where the growth should occur, Turlockers at Thursday’s meeting were receptive to the notion of denser neighborhoods. Data gathered by planners shows that Turlock’s demographics — and desire to avoid building on farmland — calls for housing densities between 7 and 12 units per acre, compared to the current citywide average of 5.6 units per acre.
“What’s interesting is, compared to a lot of places, people are open to looking at a higher density than people are used to, which is really quire surprising,” Gould said.
Turlockers were asked to give their opinion on a number of housing developments across the state that espouse compact residential development and could become models for Turlock’s future as part of Thursday’s meeting.
Turlock’s future also calls for 217 acres of new parks by 2030, and much time in Thursday’s meeting was spent discussing the mix of linear parks, greenbelts, green streets, small neighborhood parks, and large, 40-acre community parks that may one day grace the city. Planners floated the concept of an interconnected series of linear parks, which would provide green walking and bike paths winding throughout neighborhoods, away from main streets, to a positive reception.
“People seem to be excited about all the different types of parks,” Gould said. “… It’s just a matter of how much of each we have.”
Further information on the General Plan update is available online at http://www.gpupdate.turlock.ca.us/
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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