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Council finalizes city growth plan
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By a 4-1 vote, the Turlock City Council finalized the City's General Plan on Tuesday, a growth plan governing the next 20 years of Turlock's expansion.
The move confirmed a plan selected by council on Sept. 11, which will see Turlock grow to only three new master planned neighborhoods to the city's southeast, hosting 105,000 residents at build-out.
Council selected that plan instead of a larger growth plan, studied by planners for two years, which was capable of accommodating 126,800 residents. That plan would have seen Turlock grow to include five new southeastern neighborhoods, as well as one northwest of Highway 99.
The larger plan saw prior endorsement from the council, but was rejected Sept. 11 as being too costly and using too much farmland - 1,950 acres, compared to 1,015 used in the smaller plan. Throughout the planning process, community members spoke repeatedly about the need to preserve farmland and Turlock's agricultural history.
Instead, at the last moment, council members selected the smaller alternative, studied as an environmentally-preferred alternative due to its smaller growth boundary and fewer projected citizens.
"This is one of the first times that I have been involved in a project of this magnitude where the community feedback and opinion resulted in the selection of an alternative to the project presented in the environmental impact report," wrote Turlock Planning Manager Debbie Whitmore in an e-mail to all participants in the General Plan process. "The Council made this decision with great consideration of the facts and testimony presented by you."
Councilwoman Amy Bublak cast the sole vote against the growth plan. She did not comment on Tuesday, but previously stated that the larger plan would give Turlock more options to grow should a particular master plan area be deemed unfeasible, either due to unforeseen on-the-ground conditions or the Stanislaus County Local Agency Formation Commission denying Turlock the ability to annex the land.
In a further change from the larger alternative, the new neighborhoods will be built out gradually; Turlock's borders will not expand until the first Southeast Master Plan, the Northeast Master Plan, and the East Tuolumne Master Plan reach a combined 70 percent build-out.
Due to the last-minute change in plans, staff did not have the appropriate documents prepared to approve the smaller growth plan on Sept. 11. Those documents were finalized by Tuesday, in time for the vote.
But substantial work must still be done to update the Public Review Draft General Plan to reflect the new, smaller growth area, according to the city. The revised document will be completed by the end of October.
The council will consider additional documents in the months and weeks to come, ranging from fee program updates to utility master plans, as Turlock begins to update all internal documents to reflect the new growth plan. An implementation plan will be prepared and posted online in the coming weeks, detailing all the steps Turlock must make to implement the plan.

On Tuesday, the Turlock City Council also:
• Proclaimed October 2012 as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The proclamation was accompanied by discussion of a new Turlock Fire Department program, which will see firefighters wear pink shirts throughout October. The department will also sell shirts, with proceeds benefitting Emanuel Cancer Center.
• Conferenced with labor negotiators in closed session.