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Council delays zoning ordinance overhaul
Plan sent back to Planning Commission for 'clarity'
city council
The Turlock City Council requested city staff and the Planning Commission make some amendments to the Zoning Ordinance proposal prior to reconvening before the council again. - photo by Journal file photo

Despite plans to repeal and replace the City of Turlock’s Zoning Ordinance since November, it could be several months before the City Council reviews new changes as the item was referred back to the Planning Commission for a more comprehensive analysis.

“We have identified a potential defect in the process that we believe, after an abundance of caution, is best resolved by referring this matter back to the Planning Commission for the Feb. 5 meeting,” said Mayor Gary Soiseth on Tuesday.

Council member Bill DeHart requested city staff and the Planning Commission to make some amendments to the report prior to reconvening before the City Council again.

“Obviously, there is a massive amount of work that has gone into this item, but one of the things I found myself having an issue with was that I ended up having more questions than I had answers,” said DeHart, who proposed a comparative chart be created for clarity’s sake. “At a very minimum, perhaps a strike out version of what has been and what is now would be sufficient.”

The aim of the new ordinance is to bring it into consistency with the 2012 General Plan. Prior to coming before the City Council, the Planning Commission approved the changes in a 4-3 vote at their March 6 meeting.

Some of the new rules include prohibiting “mobile food facilities in the Downtown Core, Downtown Core Transition and Office Residential overlay district” as well as changing permitting processes. For instance, the requirements for smaller expansions of nonconforming uses and structures, if approved, will require a minor discretionary permit instead of a conditional use permit. Therefore, applicants may only need to interface with city staff for approval rather than appearing before the Turlock Planning Commission. Other changes include an increase in height limit for the Office Residential and Industrial Residential zoning districts as well as a reduction in landscaping requirements amongst other amendments.

With the vision of using the new ordinance as a companion document with the City of Turlock’s future general plan as well as the ideas that will be laid out during Mayor Soiseth’s first 100 day plans.

Director of Development Services and City Engineer Mike Pitcock said that the council collectively expressed an interest to see a more in depth analysis of the overhaul of the ordinance and that staff have already begun to create a “strike and replace” document which will characterize the changes that would come into effect pending the approval of the council.

“We’ll take that and build a matrix of what it was and what it will be so that you will have a real clear idea of what we are trying to change,” said Pitcock.

The zoning ordinance will be further discussed on Feb. 5 at the first Planning Commission meeting of the year which will boast two new commissioners, Eric Gonsalves and Steven Hallam.

Gonsalves is vice president of Brownstone Equities in Turlock and is a former president of the Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association where he still sits on the board. Hallam serves in an interim position as the redevelopment manager of the City of Ceres and possesses 30 years experience as a planner in the public and private sectors.

Council member Steven Nascimento opposed Tuesday's Planning Commission appointments.

“We have seven very qualified candidates, one of them being Elvis Dias who is an existing member of that commission since 2007, and two of which serve as alternates on that commission. I feel that those individuals having attended meetings for the past two years, and since 2007 in the case of Mr. Dias, would probably be better choices in respect to their commitment to the community and the commission," said Nascimento. "The sort of way we’ve treated these appointments, on a case by case basis based on individuals' qualifications, I’d like to see that continue going forward and I’d hate for there to be a perception from the public that it has become some sort of political patronage system where campaign contributions lead to appointments. So I would ask that the mayor be considerate of that going forward and perhaps we can discuss the different qualifications of each of the applicants before appointments are made."

Gonsalves and his wife Rebecca jointly contributed $3,000 to Soiseth’s mayoral run in June, according to his campaign 460 statement.

Soiseth responded by noting that both appointees have not only applied for the commission in the past, but also have experience in planning issues.

“I know that Mr. Gonsalves and Mr. Hallam will do excellent work on the Planning Commission,” responded Soiseth.

“I think both of them add an element of diversity to the Planning Commission, so that’s where we’re taking it and I appreciate your comments.”