Oakdale passes growth plan

jholland@modbee.comAugust 8, 2013 

DN Oakdale development

The clock tower at the main intersection E F St. and N. Yosemite Ave. in Oakdale.

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    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 City Council voted 5-0 Thursday night for a general plan update that seeks to protect farmland while the population possibly doubles by 2030.

The plan largely sticks with the low-density neighborhoods that characterize Oakdale today, while urging somewhat higher density and a mix of uses in and near downtown.

The plan maintains farming in the area along Highway 120 north of the Stanislaus River, which previously had been slated for development. It also states that the city will craft a policy for mitigating farmland lost to residential annexations, possibly through preservation of equal land elsewhere.

Councilman Michael Brennan said the plan would help maintain Oakdale's agricultural base. "We get nice, fresh food and we create a lot of great jobs for ag," he said, "and it keeps our environment more livable."

Perhaps a dozen residents turned out for the meeting. The most discussion was on whether to increase commercial uses at the west and east ends of Highway 108. A couple of residents near Crane Road on the west said the retail plans would disturb their neighborhood. Mayor Pat Paul said a site on the northwest corner of 108 at Stearns Road should be commercial rather than residential because Oakdale is losing retail business to Riverbank and Modesto.

Neither designation was changed, but city officials said they could be debated again when specific projects go before the council.

They also said the possible doubling of population in 17 years, to about 43,000, is an upper estimate that assumes all the land is developed per the plan.

The document replaces a 1994 general plan that had projected 29,000 people in Oakdale by 2015. The population today is about 21,000, held in check by the economic slowdown of recent years.

Approval of the general plan update clears 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 on the south side of 108 at 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 postpones 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 plan maintains the large industrial area south of downtown, anchored by the ConAgra tomato cannery and Sconza candy plant.

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.

Brennan said the preservation effort could include a long-discussed "greenbelt" of farmland between Oakdale and Riverbank.

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

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