The Turlock City Council will once again consider Sacred Heart Catholic Church's request for the City to abandon one block of Cooper Avenue and allow the church to take over the property.
In April, the City Council decided to hold off on abandoning the section of Cooper Avenue that sits between two Sacred Heart school campuses so that the City could facilitate a discussion between the church and its neighbors - a number of whom have voiced continued opposition to the street abandonment.
On May 26, City Manager Gary Hampton convened a meeting with Sacred Heart administration and neighborhood representatives. According to a City staff report, the two groups could not come to a consensus. The neighborhood representatives said they could not support the street abandonment.
The neighbors' main concerns are the loss of public street access for a private purpose, the blocking of free access to move within the neighborhood, increased response times for emergency vehicles, additional traffic on surrounding streets and potential for traffic back-ups with parents dropping off students attending Sacred Heart schools.
"My biggest concern I had 10 years ago when I brought this to the council was emergency response...How much is my life and my property and my neighbors' lives and their property worth to Sacred Heart and now I say to the City," said Cooper Avenue resident Amy Boylan-Mendes at the April City Council meeting.
Sacred Heart has been trying to get the City to abandon the street for decades. A similar petition was denied by the City Council in 1983, after council members received a significant amount of opposition from the neighbors in the area at the time.
Although Sacred Heart Church was previously unsuccessful in abandoning the street that separates their two campuses, the City of Turlock approved a Minor Discretionary Permit in 2001 to allow the church to install a seven foot cyclone fence and gates to enclose Cooper Avenue between Oak and Rose streets. As a result, the gated area is closed to through traffic during school hours and special events. The gates limit pedestrian access, parking and vehicular through traffic during the balance of the day and on weekends.
If the City Council should decide to go ahead with the abandonment, City staff is recommending Sacred Heart agree to a number of conditions:
• Improving the driveways and corner returns to meet Americans with Disability Act requirements;
• Add sidewalk to frontage where it is missing;
• Add alley asphalt pavement to provide a City standard alley from the ext point of the preschool parking lot to Rose Street;
• Install a 4-way stop control at surrounding intersections and update high visibility crosswalks;
• Relocate City streetlight from vacated section of Cooper Avenue to City right-of-way;
• Relocate stop sign and fire hydrant that is located within the ADA path of travel;
• Make all necessary vehicle and pedestrian access improvements as required by the building and fire codes.
The Turlock Police and Fire Departments each ran multiple simulations on emergency response times to the area if Cooper Avenue was closed permanently and both agencies found that the closure would not impact their response times.
The City Engineer also reviewed the traffic circulation of the neighborhood and determined the removal of the Cooper Avenue block from the street network is not likely to negatively impact the flow of vehicles in the area. If, however, the number of parking spaces were reduced due to the street closure, increased parking impacts could occur during church services and special events.
The City Council will consider the Cooper Avenue abandonment at their next meeting, set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 156 S. Broadway.