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County to determine long-range planning for rural communities

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Posted: Tuesday, November 18, 2008 10:00 pm

Planners with San Joaquin County have been traveling throughout the county's rural areas to gauge public opinion on what is most important: transportation, jobs, recreation, agriculture, water or other issues.

Most recently, a dozen Woodbridge residents attended a community meeting to discuss what is most important to them.

The Woodbridge meeting was one of 14 meetings held from Thornton to Ripon. The dicussion constituted the first step in the county's update of its General Plan for unincorporated areas.

The General Plan is the land-use bible on which planning decisions are based. It will cover the next 20 years. The plan hasn't been updated since 1992.

The Board of Supervisors and county Planning Commission will conduct a workshop at 1:30 p.m. on either Dec. 9 or Dec. 16 in Stockton to discuss the General Plan and what was stated in the 14 community workshops, said Senior Planner Raymond Hoo.

Mary Avanti

"Everybody had a different idea of what needs were," said Mary Avanti, a Woodbridge Municipal Advisory Council member who attended forums in Lodi and Woodbridge. "I don't think there was any general consensus."

Hoo said he was getting tired by the time the last few meetings wound down, but he said that comments from residents throughout the county were valuable.

County General Plan at a glance

The San Joaquin County General Plan is being updated for the first time since 1992. It will be a three-year process, with the Board of Supervisors expected to adopt the plan in June 2011.

The General Plan is designed to reflect the unique values, geography and aspirations of county residents, respond to climate change, provide for sustainable, enhance agriculture, diversify the economic base, provide infrastructure for future growth, protect and enhance scenic landscapes and routes and to protect the Delta.

Mintier Harnish, the county's consultant, will develop a draft plan with alternatives, but that won't be for several months.

The General Plan is for unincorporated areas only. Each of the seven cities in San Joaquin County, including Lodi, has its own General Plan.

The Board of Supervisors and county Planning Commission will have a joint workshop at 1:30 p.m. on either Dec. 9 or Dec. 16 on the seventh floor of the county courthouse, 222 E. Weber Ave., Stockton. The Planning Commission will have a study session and develop ideas on Jan. 15.

For more information, visit www.sjcgpu.com.

Source: San Joaquin County

"I think that county staff was very prepared for the meeting," said Jim Allan, who serves on the Thornton Fire and New Hope school boards. "They're just brainstorming about what's good and what's bad to get a general direction."

Allan said his comments at the Thornton workshop Oct. 30 focused on the county putting more teeth into the heritage tree ordinance that would stop developers from chopping down trees and replacing them with acorns.

"I think oaks are part of the community identity in Thornton," Allan said. "People in Thornton are generally happy with its rural sense of identity."

Former Lodi Mayor John Beckman, who now heads the Building Industry Association's Delta chapter, said he told county planners that they need to dedicate residential zoning in the General Plan, as mandated by the state. The state requires San Joaquin County to zone for 8,509 residential units in unincorporated communities, Beckman said.

Bill Fields

Bill Fields, chairman of the Morada Municipal Advisory Council, said the Oct. 22 planning workshop in Morada wasn't very productive.

"They didn't really come to get our input," Fields said of the county planners. "They had already figured out what they were going to present. It's like a little play. Everybody's got their little script memorized.

"And by the way, the cookies they brought were stale," Fields said.

Morada residents emphasized their concerns about Stockton's desire to grow too much and about how much development countywide would deplete the groundwater basin, Fields said.

While 15 to 20 residents showed up for the Morada meeting, Avanti and Allan were disappointed in the small turnout in Woodbridge and Thornton. Woodbridge drew about a dozen residents, while about half that amount showed up in Thornton.

"I just wish more people would have showed up," Avanti said. "Woodbridge citizens need to be more involved in their community."

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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