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Program looks to teach smart growth principles
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Smart growth isn't just a buzzword. Building denser, more livable and environmentally-friendly cities is a top priority for the federal government.

A new, federally-sponsored leadership program will look to train Turlockers about what smart growth means – and how they can participate in the planning process to make Turlock a better place.

“At a national level, we are looking to develop smarter, safer, healthier communities,” said Sallie Ayala-Pérez, local coordinator for Smart Valley Places.

Smart Valley Places was created in October 2010, via a $4 million Sustainable Communities Regional Planning grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Today, Smart Valley Places encompasses 14 Valley cities from eight counties – including Turlock.

The partnership aims to create a single integrated plan for regional Valley growth, guiding expansion for the next 20 years. By employing dense, smart growth concepts, expansion will be centered in existing urbanized areas, preserving agriculture and minimizing suburbanization.

To empower residents to participate in the planning process, the Community Leadership Institute helps citizens gain a more technical understanding of smart growth principles. To put that knowledge to use, the Community Leadership Institute will help citizens learn how to become more involved in local government, and affect decisions made.

Though planners are specifically targeting local leaders, government staff, business owners, stakeholders, and residents of lower income areas to participate, all are welcome to apply. As many as 20 Turlockers can participate in the institute.

The program is expected to run for six months, with topics ranging from government to land use, transportation, water/wastewater management, and environmental equality. Each month, participants will attend a four-hour formal training session, followed two weeks later by a two-hour technical assistance workshop.

To learn more about the Smart Valley Places Community Leadership Institute, or to participate, a kick-off event will be held from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday at Westside Ministries, 950 Columbia St. Refreshments will be provided.

For more information, call 541-0101.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.