Growth? It shouldn’t happen for Turlock, say Denair residents.
A horde of angry Denair residents turned up at a Thursday public meeting to protest Turlock’s proposed General Plan – a document which guides the city’s growth for the next 20-30 years – which they see as having detrimental effects on Denair. About 80 percent of the 50-person audience hailed from Denair.
The plan would see Turlock grow by as many as 50,000 people over the next 30 years, with most of that growth coming to Turlock’s southeast and some coming northwest of Highway 99, as well.
But none of the proposals would alter Turlock’s northeastern boundary, keeping Turlock at its current distance from Denair according to Leslie Gould, principal with Dyett & Bhatia Urban & Regional Planners, which is drafting the plan.
“There are no impacts on the city of Denair,” Gould said.
“Yes there is,” replied Denair Fire Department Chief Glen Doerksen.
As part of Turlock’s growth to the southeast, the city would eventually annex about 320 acres of farmland currently served by Denair Fire, according to Turlock. Doerksen disagreed, saying the annexation would take about 680 acres.
That annexation would take $5,000 of the department’s $150,000 annual budget in tax revenues, according to Doerksen.
Turlock officials say that, as part of the annexation process, agreements would be made to compensate the Denair Fire Department for the loss of land. Doerksen said that no such deal was made during past annexations, which he said has taken “thousands of acres” from the department.
“The city has grown,” Gould admitted.
“At the expense of other agencies,” Doerksen said.
Some Denair residents said they did not trust the City of Turlock. Others said that any growth on farmland would negatively impact Denair.
"Why are you not considering what this city is based on as far as our agriculture and our job force?" asked Dennis Findley, chairman of the Denair Municipal Advisory Council.
Findley said he didn’t want Turlock to grow onto any farmland, whatsoever. When Gould noted that Turlock cannot grow without expanding onto farmland, which surrounds Turlock, Findley said he would prefer the city did not grow.
Following a non-stop run of Denair speakers, a show of hands was asked for how many of those in attendance were from Denair. None supported Turlock’s growth.
“This is the Turlock plan, right?” asked former City Council candidate David “D.J.” Fransen. “Am I the only one from Turlock? I'd like to comment on Turlock, personally.”
Fransen, also, advocated for no physical growth for Turlock. He suggested Turlock grow its population through infill development and taller buildings, a point of view echoed by Turlocker Milt Treweiler.
Current City Council candidate Sergio Alvarado went further in his anti-growth stance, suggesting Turlock follow the model of Kingsburg. That city has strict population growth limits.
“I don't see why we need to grow if we can't even maintain roads and the quality of life here,” Alvarado said.
None of the Turlock speakers at Thursday’s meeting supported growth.
But having no growth isn’t a good option, Gould said, with infill only able to accommodate 6,000 new residents at most. Turlockers will have children, and others will want to move to Turlock. If Turlock refuses to grow, a new city will likely spring up just outside Turlock’s borders, she said.
Thursday’s meeting wasn’t intended to be a time to comment on the basic tenets of the plan, which has been in development since 2008 with numerous community meetings along the way. The document is nearing final approval, expected this fall from the Turlock City Council.
The meeting was intended to gather comments on the draft environmental impact report, a state-required document which explains how the growth plan could negatively affect the community.
Though the document works to mitigate many of the side effects, by improving sustainable development policies, adding bikeways, and pushing infill and revitalization, some unavoidable impacts remain.
“As a function of growth which all cities encounter, there do remain some significant impacts,” said Sophie Martin, planner with Dyett & Bhatia.
Should Turlock’s growth proceed as planned, the city will begin to overdraw its groundwater reserves by 2018. This could be mitigated should Turlock move forward with a planned surface water treatment facility.
But other impacts are unavoidable as more residents come. Traffic would increase, some agricultural land would be removed from production, and air quality would decrease, though per-capita emissions would fall. Additionally, noise would rise, particularly on some parts of Golf Road, Canal Drive, Christoffersen Parkway east of Olive Avenue, and Verduga Road.
As part of the environmental review, planners reviewed three alternatives: growing only to a small portion of the southeast, accommodating about 105,000 residents; growing to fill the entire southeast but ignoring the northwest, accommodating about 115,000; or having no change from the current General Plan.
After review, the first alternative was found to have the least environmental impacts, but would not accommodate the growth demanded in Turlock. The second alternative represents a compromise, with better environmental impacts than the full development but worse than the smaller option one, while accommodating the low end of growth projections. Maintaining the current General Plan was found to be most unfavorable, as it still calls to develop the southeast, but at significantly lower densities, detrimentally impacting the environment and not fully optimizing the use of farmland.
“Ultimately, it’s up to council to decide what alternative to choose,” said Turlock Deputy Director of Development Services Debbie Whitmore.
The General Plan can be viewed online at http://www.gpupdate.turlock.ca.us/index.html. Additionally, hard copies are available at Turlock City Hall, 156 S. Broadway, at the Planning/Building Counter or at the Turlock Library, 550 Minaret Ave.
Comments may be provided in writing to Development Services Department, Planning Division, 156 S. Broadway, Suite 120, Turlock, CA 95380-5454 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org through 5 p.m. on July 20.