An on-again, off-again commercial development project is closer to reality. Despite concerns about vacant buildings around town and potential traffic issues associated with growth, Lodi’s Planning Commission agreed to move forward with the annexation of 30 acres of land south of city limits for commercial development at its Wednesday evening meeting.
All aspects of traffic conditions on Harney Lane, where the development will be, have been exhaustively studied over several years, said City Manager Rad Bartlam. The environmental study conducted for the city’s general plan, as well as data gathered for the Reynolds Ranch Center and Harney Lane’s widening have all shown that the project has been properly planned for, he said.
“We have more confidence on Harney Lane than on any other street in town,” Bartlam said.
The project, an office and retail center to be located at the southwest corner of Harney and West lanes, was originally discussed several years ago when the city’s 2010 General Plan was in the process of being developed. However, the plans were put on hold by the developer until the general plan was completed. Although not in the city’s boundaries, the farmland is in Lodi’s sphere of influence and was designated for commercial use in the most recent general plan. The General Plan sets policies and programs that form a blueprint for physical development throughout the community.
Planning commission member Wendel Kiser said the loss of farmland would hurt the community. The area’s abundance of existing, vacant commercial and retail buildings around town negated the commission’s need to move forward. He voted against the annexation.
“Across the street is a vacant center,” Kiser said. “Why not fill what we’ve got?”
Fellow commission member Bill Cummins said the type of businesses the proposed commercial center is looking to attract would not be enticed by the center across the street.
“It’s a different class of building and construction,” Cummins said.
A local dairy farmer expressed concerns on how the center could affect the future of their operation.
“Our breathing room is disappearing,” said Paul Nicolini, of Kaehler Dairy on Armstrong Road. “There are times when we need to spread manure across the fields for fertilizer. Are people going to be complaining about the smell and flies? Will we be able to spray?”
Developer Michael Carouba also cleared a hurdle before the meeting by coming to an agreement with Citizens for Open Government, a group that previously opposed the project. Citizens for Open Government also has spoken out about Lodi’s proposed Walmart Supercenter.
Amenities such as a bike rack and electric vehicle charging stations are additions to the project that were hammered out in the agreement with Citizens for Open Government, Carouba said.
Although the annexation has been approved by the planning commission, much work remains before construction can begin. The annexation must still must be approved by the City Council and the county’s Local Agency Formation Commission must also approve the proposal.
In a perfect world, Carouba said groundbreaking could occur within 12 to 18 months. However, Carouba was most concerned with taking one step at a time, he said.
Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at firstname.lastname@example.org.