Oakdale council to consider plan that would double population by 2030

jholland@modbee.comAugust 6, 2013 

    alternate textJohn Holland
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: Agriculture, Turlock; local news editor on Sundays
    Bio: John Holland has been a reporter at The Bee for 12 years. He has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and previously worked at the Union Democrat in Sonora and the Visalia Times-Delta.
    Recent stories written by John
    Email: jholland@modbee.com

— The Oakdale City Council on Thursday will consider a general plan update that envisions a doubling of the city to about 43,000 people by 2030.

Much of the growth would be on farmland — as it has been under the current plan, adopted in 1994 — but the update calls for preservation of other agricultural land to compensate for the loss.

The update provides for somewhat higher density in and near downtown, with a mix of uses including homes, shops, and offices. It urges that outlying parts of Highway 108 to the west and east, now dominated by parking lots fronting stores, be made more inviting to pedestrians.

Along Highway 120 on the north side, earlier plans to build north of the Stanislaus River would be dropped in favor of continued farming.

"It's a very solid plan to take Oakdale into the future," planning consultant George Osner, who helped draft it, said Tuesday. "We are moving into a future where it's very important to have a sustainable environment."

The update recognizes the economic slowdown that hit Oakdale and other parts of the Northern San Joaquin Valley over much of the past decade. The 1994 plan projected a population of about 29,000 by 2015, but itstands at about 21,000 with just two years to go.

The updated plan, required under state law, would not mean approval for any specific project. Rather, it lays out guidelines for how the city should grow while protecting farmland, the river and other assets.

Much of the residential growth would be low density, four to eight homes per acre, similar to Oakdale's current neighborhoods.

Medium-density projects — up to 14 homes per acre — are proposed mainly for downtown and nearby streets. Higher-density housing could go in a few places.

Mayor Pat Paul said she likes the idea of a denser core. "If you really are not going to have sprawl and eat up the farmland, you have to build up," she said.

Paul does not agree with the proposal for housing at Highway 108 and Stearns Road, at the east end, saying it is better suited to retail.

"We really need to quit the leakage to Riverbank and Modesto, because it's really hard to shop in Oakdale," she said.

Approval of the general plan update would clear the way for completion of a pair of "specific plans" for parts of the city in the near future.

One involves two areas totaling 262 acres near Highway 108 and Crane Road, with 935 housing units, shopping and offices. The other is a 297-acre area at 108 and Stearns, with 820 homes plus stores and offices.

The update designates three larger areas — in the northwest, northeast and southwest parts of the city — for future specific plans. And it would postpone detailed planning for an even larger expanse to the south and east until a route is chosen for the North County Corridor, a planned bypass of 108.

The industrial area south of downtown, anchored by the ConAgra tomato cannery and Sconza candy plant, would remain a key part of Oakdale's economy.

City officials and consultants have worked on the update since 2009, including meetings with interested residents.

The proposal for preserving other farmland to compensate for development stems from a policy adopted last year by the Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission. LAFCo said it would approve annexations of ag land to cities only if an equal amount were kept in farming via conservation easements or other means.

A city staff report said Oakdale's general plan update "includes a provision requiring all specific plans to include such a program."

The council will meet at 5 p.m. Thursday at 277 N. Second Ave., Oakdale.

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at jholland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2385.

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