Three Turlock City Council members went against the direction of the entire Planning Commission and all but one member of the audience in a vote to examine growing Turlock to the northeast as well as the southwest.
The vote came at a Monday night joint meeting of the Turlock City Council and the Turlock Planning Commission to determine a preferred growth scenario for Turlock’s General Plan Update, a document that will guide Turlock’s growth through 2030.
Everyone but one audience member and Council members Kurt Spycher, Ted Howze and Amy Bublak supported only investigating growing to the southwest.
“I think it’s a philosophical debate,” said Planning Commission Chairman Mike Brem. “I’m of the mind that, as a city, if we don’t want to grow to the northwest, we don’t study it.”
The 3-2 majority formed by Howze, Spycher and Bublak voted to research all possible growth options, including a northeastern expansion. The vote did lay out plans for a tiered approach, where the southwest would need to be 70 percent developed before building could begin in the northeast.
“All that does is leave the options to your elected leaders at that time and your public to move forward or not move forward at that time,” Howze said.
Additionally, the majority argued that researching the additional growth alternative would not cost the City of Turlock any additional money. As an environmental review has yet to be performed, there also remains the possibility that growth to the southeast, while preferable from a cost, traffic, and farmland conservation standpoint, could be unfeasible for some as yet unidentified reason. For those reasons, city staff supported researching all growth scenarios as well.
“What if there is a big growth and we’re not prepared and it’s going to cost us more money later?” Bublak asked. “ … We have to have a backup, and we’re not making the decision to grow to all these areas, we’re saying let’s look at it.”
Mayor John Lazar and Councilwoman Mary Jackson dissented with the plan.
The farmland to the northeast of Turlock city limits, in the space roughly bounded by Washington Road, Fulkerth Road, Monte Vista Avenue, and Highway 99, is among the city’s best. Lazar and Jackson, along with the Planning commissioners and members of the audience, lobbied for a hard-line opposition to taking such valuable farmland – and expanding Turlock to the West of Highway 99, opening the door for future sprawl.
“We need to be very smart about how we grow and we will make this the jewel of the Valley,” Jackson said.
Jackson added that future councils would have the option to amend the general plan if the southeast growth area fills up prior to the close of the 20 year general plan length. Between 12,000 and 18,000 additional units will be needed by 2030.
That first southeast area to be developed — bounded roughly by Golf Road, Highway 99, and the existing city limits on one side and Hawkeye Avenue, Verduga Road, East Linwood Avenue, and existing city limits on the other — would accommodate approximately 6,730 units. Infill development could allow for approximately 5,000 additional units to be developed within existing city limits.
The more outlying area of the southeast, taking Turlock to the Merced County border, would allow for an additional 3,680 units but would require a new interchange with Highway 99.
The northwest area would accommodate 4,230 units.
The General Plan Update will continue to be developed, based on council’s decision, with a draft of the document due to Turlock city staff by the end of this year.
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