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Planning Commission approves development of new school, residential community
MorganRanch MasterPlan-27

After 10 years of evolving plans, another step has been taken towards developing property in the southeastern part of Turlock which will include an elementary school, city parks and residential housing.

On Thursday, the Turlock Planning Commission unanimously approved the incorporation of the Morgan Ranch Master Plan into City's General Plan. While final approval rests with the City Council, the approval of the plan and its environmental impact is indicative of growth in Turlock.

The property involved is roughly 170 acres of land in the southwest corner of Glenwood Avenue and Golf Link Road which is bound by Highway 99, located just to the south of the community of homes on 5th Avenue, Amberwood Lane and Baywood Lane. Of the 170 acres, 11 would be zoned for a public school to accommodate 300 students; 15 acres would be zoned high density residential; eight acres would be devoted to city parks including a four acre drainage ditch with a raised portion of land for jungle gym equipment; one and a half acres for office buildings; and nearly nine acres for community commercial use. A hallmark of the plan is the smaller sized lots, less than 6,000 square feet, many of which may be more affordable than median home prices and ideal for single families.

"A key feature of the Morgan Ranch Master Plan is its vision to offer greater opportunity for entry-level housing by allowing smaller lots than are typically found in Turlock," states the City report.

Of the 15 elements that are considered when evaluating a project’s environmental impact,  three were of concern with the Morgan Ranch project: the loss of agricultural resources, air quality and transportation. These three components will have a “significant and unavoidable impact” since the city will lose agricultural property, the air quality will become poorer, and there will be increased traffic upon the development of new homes. However, according to the City, the benefits outweigh the negatives in that the plan is "necessary to carry out the vision of the Turlock General Plan by providing housing and commercial opportunities to its citizens" in southeastern Turlock where growth is expected. 

“These are inevitable impacts that are being driven by growth,” said Deputy Director of Development Services and Planning Debbie Whitmore, who noted that the goal is to balance the growth of the city with unchangeable environmental facts. “It’s like a balancing act it has to go through. Yes, there are residual impacts that have not been adequately mitigated, but you balance that against the benefits of the project to the city and the area overall.”

Pending the City Council's approval, developers will be able to submit subdivision maps to the City and Whitmore said there has already been interest from the development community.

"Ultimately, it's going to be driven by the market, but we have had several development companies express interest in moving forward with the maps," said Whitmore.