Residents of the Reynolds Ranch area have raised concern over new homes planned for the neighborhood, citing the lack of services needed to accommodate the influx of prospective new Lodians.

Judith Costa and Daisy Dickens live on Merton Way in the Reynolds Ranch area. They told the Lodi City Council at its Wednesday night meeting that staffers need to consider placing a fire department and school in the area if developer Bennett Homes, Inc. plans to build in the neighborhood. The developer is planning to construct 150 new homes on 28.2 acres located on the west side of South Stockton Street at Harney Lane and north of Merton Way.

Dickens told the council that she and her family moved to Merton Way from Stockton three years ago so her children could attend Lodi schools.

The addition of the homes would negatively impact the Lodi Unified School District, which has been enrolling students at campuses outside of their neighborhoods, Dickens said. Her children should attend Borchardt Elementary School, half a mile from their home, but instead have to attend Live Oak Elementary School two miles away and on the east side of Highway 99, she added.

“My kids can’t go to a school half a mile away, they have to go to a school two miles away because (the district) is too impacted to do an (inter-district assignment),” Dickens said. “So when you guys are approving these things and allowing Lodi to grow, are we thinking about the education of our children? Because that was one of the biggest reasons I moved here. You’re growing these communities and not thinking about the children.”

City Manager Steve Schwabauer said the decision to build new schools lies with the school district, not the city or the city council.

“Lodi Unified reports to us that they’re actually seeing declining enrollment,” he said. “I can’t explain the issues that Ms. Dickens is experiencing in terms of impacts with those schools, but most of these new homes built in Lodi the last couple years are not coming with increased enrollment in the district.”

For the 2020-21 year, the district anticipated 27,887 students enrolled, with a decline to 27,711 next year and 27,556 in 2022-23.

Councilwoman JoAnne Mounce said when the project was first presented in 2007, developers set aside land for a new school and fire station. However, the district told the city it did not need a new campus, Mounce said, so the land was given back to the developer.

Costa said that once finished, the homes will not be affordable to the young families the city is trying to attract.

“This is not fair to people who have lower incomes. These houses are going to be $400,000-plus,” she said. “Who’s going to be able to afford them, especially when COVID is going to hit the real estate market? When these people aren’t paying their mortgages right now, they’ve just got a Band-Aid on it, they have a deferment, and they’re going have to start paying soon. What’s going to happen when they can’t pay their mortgages?”

Mounce also had concerns with the affordability of these new homes, given the units that applicant Bennett Homes developed for Rose Gate at Lower Sacramento Road and Lodi Avenue are currently listed at a minimum of $500,000.

“We’re building homes that Lodians cannot afford,” she said. “And until we start building a diversity of housing ... where’s the small house? Where’s the duplex? Where’s the fourplex? We should be giving opportunity for all people in the City of Lodi to be able to reside in a new neighborhood, instead of all people having to live on the east side because it’s the only affordable housing in town, and poor housing stock at that.”

The proposed development is not new; staff said it is the final component to the original Reynolds Ranch project approved more than a decade ago. It will feature 39 low-density homes and 111 medium-density homes of three different floor plans, staff said.

The council approved the project by a vote of 3-1, with Mounce dissenting.

“As this town continues to grow, there are going to be compromised sites like this that are going to be developed,” Councilman Mark Chandler said. “And it’s not ideal for the people that live there, it may not be ideal for the people going to buy the homes. But what’s the alternative? The alt is to leave this blank or put up storage units there, and as the pressure continues to grow from people leaving the Bay Area, we’re going to go and take out some more vineyards. So, I think it’s a hard decision, there’s a lot of concerns, but I think the concerns have been addressed by community development.”

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