After hearing about traffic concerns from residents of the surrounding neighborhood, the Turlock City Council last week gave final approval for a new housing development which will bring 50 new homes to town.
After approval from the Planning Commission in September, the Balisha Ranch subdivision came before the City Council in November for approval of a rezone for the 17.4-acre property at 2930 E. Tuolumne Rd. Council considered a rezone which would take the property from a Residential Estate zoning to a Planned Development, allowing for various deviations from the Very Low-Density Residential development standards in the East Tuolumne Master Plan.
While the subdivision meets the density requirements for Very Low-Density Residential standards at 2.8 units per acre, exceptions to the 14,500 square foot minimum lot size were proposed as part of the plan with lots ranging from 7,500 square feet to 12,000 square feet along with other deviations.
The Balisha Ranch subdivision is one of three new housing developments near Tuolumne Road, with the Le Chateaux by KB Homes and Fairbanks Ranch subdivisions under construction across the street from the project site.
Outcry from neighbors of the project in Canterbury Estates, who were concerned about increased traffic the development would bring to their streets, persuaded the Council to approve the rezone with amendments back in November. Residents of Canterbury Estates who spoke during the November meeting asked that Wyndfair Drive be limited to bike and pedestrian passage only, rather than providing vehicular access between the two subdivisions. However, Fire Marshal Mark Gomez informed the public that restricting vehicular access would prevent fire and emergency vehicles from reaching homes in a timely manner.
Council directed City staff to work with both the developer and the public in proximity to the project to implement traffic calming measures along Wyndfair Drive and last Tuesday, a subdivision map along with the new traffic calming measures was presented to the Council.
In a letter to the Council on Jan. 3, neighbors asked them to consider leaving Wyndfair Drive as a pedestrian and bike path while providing access to the Balisha Ranch subdivision through other means. In the residents’ proposal, they asked that Castleview Drive enter Balisha Ranch from Daubenberger Road, then continue west to join the main north/south road in the subdivision.
“We realize this would involve a rework of the plan, but according to the developer it could be done and perhaps even allow for an additional home site, making it a win-win for the developer, the City and the residents of both neighborhoods,” said Canterbury Estates resident George Jenkins, who called into last Tuesday’s remote City Council meeting. “The developers will comply with the instructions of the City Council.”
The plan presented to Council during that Jan. 11 meeting adjusted the original site plan by adding 12 new stop signs throughout the two neighborhoods as well as a speed table along Wyndfair Drive, rather than closing it off from Canterbury Estates as residents had asked. The plan was approved by Council in a 3-2 vote, with Councilmembers Andrew Nosrati and Nicole Larson dissenting.
Mayor Amy Bublak, Vice Mayor Pam Franco and Councilmember Rebecka Monez all said “yes” to the project as presented.
“To the homeowners in Canterbury, I totally understand your desire to want a different design rather than the one that’s been proposed…One of my biggest concerns is that we’d be setting a precedent for public opinion and not ordinance to dictate our growth plan, and we have those set up in the general plan,” Franco said. “The proposal of the design the neighbors have suggested would need to have new engineering at every level...Basically it’s going to cost a lot of money for the developer, but the City of Turlock also has a lot of money invested with our employees, and our staff time to have to redo that is very expensive.”
Cheryl Kelly, another Canterbury Estates resident, said that the City Council has given constituents the runaround and asked the Mayor to uphold the existing zoning density of 30 homes for the property.
“You are our elected officials and we the people voted you in, and we the people can vote you out,” Kelly said. “We at Canterbury Estates will remember how you voted.”