Turlock council passes a right-to-farm ordinance

mrowland@modbee.comApril 23, 2013 

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— The City Council passed one ordinance but failed an accompanying resolution, both of which were presented as a condition of its recently settled lawsuit brought by an environmental group.

The lawsuit, filed by the Davis-based California Clean Energy Committee in October over the city's general plan, was settled this month. As one of the agreements, the council has to consider — although not necessarily pass — a right-to-farm ordinance and a measure requiring developers to conduct energy-efficiency reviews.

The council passed the right-to-farm ordinance by a 4-1 vote, with Councilwoman Amy Bublak dissenting. But the members voted against a resolution requiring developers to conduct energy-efficiency studies for all structures greater than 50,000 square feet.

The resolution would have mandated that developers of such large facilities submit a review showing how they could achieve at least 15 percent energy savings over the Green Code before their building permits are approved. But they would not be required to implement the energy-saving strategies.

Council members Bublak, Steven Nascimento and Bill DeHart Jr. voted against the resolution.

Before the vote, Bublak, who had opposed settling the lawsuit and allocating the money to pay its legal fees, called the lawsuit "frivolous." Nascimento, who presented the amended motion to not approve the resolution, said he didn't support it because of its hardship to developers. "It's something I felt would be an added burden in these tough economic times," he said.

Such large-scale building developments are rare in Turlock, averaging about one a year.

Director of Development Services Mike Pitcock estimated that requiring an additional energy-efficiency study could "maybe not cost anything, maybe a couple thousand" dollars for developers. He estimated the extra time for the city to process the review would be about $100 annually.

The approved right-to-farm ordinance declares agricultural activities a benefit to the city and not to be considered a nuisance to other development.

The California Clean Energy Committee filed a lawsuit against the city in the fall claiming that its general plan did not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act and did not adequately protect farmland. In the settlement, the city paid the group's $15,000 legal fees and agreed to consider the measures and have staff recommend them.

In another issue related to the general plan, the council voted to lessen its road width requirements for expansions of Taylor Road. The long-range plan to change the north Turlock thoroughfare into a four-lane expressway in the next 20 to 30 years would require the acquisition of property from private owners.

The item brought out about a half-dozen concerned residents whose land might by affected by the widening. But council members tried to put their fears at ease by explaining the changes would lessen the impact of any expansion by changing the width from 108 feet to 94 feet.

The general plan had required a four-lane expressway be at least 108 feet. The narrower width passed by a vote of 4-1, with DeHart objecting.

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at mrowland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2284. Follow her on Twitter, @TurlockNow.

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