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Future Manteca students may attend school in Ripon Unified
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RIPON – A chunk of land that changed hands when the City of Ripon last updated their general plan – the municipal blueprint for growth - could end up bringing a whole lot of students to Ripon Unified.

The City of Manteca is currently moving through the preparation of a draft Environmental Impact Report for the Austin Road Business Park – a 1,049-acre parcel that is essentially triangulated between Moffat Boulevard, Atherton Drive, and Sedan Avenue.

While the property – which is set to incorporate 3,832 living units scattered among several land use designations – is being proposed for annexation to the Manteca’s city limits, the majority of the project falls under the new boundary that places it in the jurisdiction of both Ripon Unified and the Ripon Consolidated Fire District.

During their meeting on Monday night, Ripon’s Board of Education discussed what will be included in the letter that will be sent to the City of Manteca before the closure of the public review period that runs through Feb. 18.

Ripon Planning Director Ken Zuidervaart said that the city is also currently setting up a meeting with Manteca’s development staff to go over the project – which used to be land inside of Ripon’s sphere of influence but was swapped for other land that Manteca claimed that would have been more beneficial to Ripon as it develops.

Complete build-out of the project – which will be constructed in five phases – is expected to take at least a decade once it begins in 2010.

“It’s probably not known that there’s a significant portion of the (future) City of Manteca that is within the boundaries of our school district,” Trustee Ernie Tyhurst said. “It may not raise red flags with a whole lot of people, but it’s something that we need to address.”

Tyhurst – the retired Ripon Planning Director that helped gear the city up for the last General Plan update – said he worried that the 1,000 housing units that fall under Ripon’s purview might realistically end up being 2,000 by the time that it’s completed thanks to pressure from various groups to increase housing density in order to lessen the impact on neighboring farmland.

It will create a situation similar to Weston Ranch where there are thousands of homes in the City of Stockton but students are served by Manteca Unified.

Other issues raised that will likely also be included in Ripon’s response include:

• The expectation that the school district would be paid all necessary developer fees for each phase of the project as it develops.

• A request for discussion about the impact of the residential development on the capacity of both the elementary and high school.

• Whether land will be set aside for a new elementary school within the massive project.

• Concerns that the residential developments allow for appropriate stops for school busses.

But the project is also set to include additional perks like a 32,000-square-foot expositional hall for conferences, an amphitheater with 1,000 permanent seats and a 4,000-person capacity including lawn seating for outdoor events, and a 10,000-square-foot agricultural expo facility.

Based on the notice that the City of Manteca distributed to necessary municipalities and government entities that will play a role in or be affected by the project, the EIR will address issues that include public services – including police services, fire services, school, and libraries – as well as utilities and service systems.

There is currently no specific timetable for the completion of the EIR or the rest of the project.