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McKinley Avenue: A growing call to hem in Manteca
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Bernie McGraff doesn’t live among almond orchards south of Manteca.

He resides deep in developed Manteca on Wimbledon Court.

But that didn’t stop him - and a handful of other city residents - from joining about 60 rural South Manteca farmers and homeowners earlier this year in protesting an extension of McKinley Avenue south of Woodward Avenue that they contend will simply induce growth and destroy prime farmland.

And while city staff during public discussions on a potential road alignment said they didn’t expect the extension to be built for 20 to 30 years, that didn’t ease the concerns of the residents.

Residents pointed out that once the alignment is set the city essentially will be putting in motion growth patterns that will clash significantly with their rural lifestyle.

And it’s not just homes on small acreage and working farms that are at risk. A long-planned Catholic church complex - that could end up being a retreat or even a school - could be impacted depending on the route that is ultimately adopted.

How far growth will go is an issue just starting to come on the radar

Growth - or more precisely - how far growth will go - is an issue with a small but growing number of residents who live inside and just outside the city limits.

Growth however hasn’t been an issue in a city council election since the mid-1980s when a backlash to rapid growth prompted the council in 1986 to put in place the first growth management program in the San Joaquin Valley.

It will be difficult, though, for the next council to kick the can down the road any longer when it comes to the exact McKinley Avenue extension.

And it has everything to do with what Manteca can afford to pay for growth.

That’s because Caltrans nixed the plans for the Austin Road replacement interchange to support the 1,049-acre Austin Road Business park along Highway 99. The stat won’t allow a new interchange within two miles of another interchange that also serves a freeway. That means plans Manteca had as well as Ripon for their own interchange (Olive Avenue) are both no longer feasible. They have to work together on a shared interchange and that means it will go farther south.

In doing so, that could alter existing alignment scenarios for McKinley Avenue.

But the real big question for Manteca is not so much where the alignment will go, but how the city will pay for the interchange that could run in excess of $100 million. In order to build an interchange, the city would need to make growth shoulder all or most of the cost. There would need to be enough new homes built so the city can cover the tab with growth fees. And that could mean pursuing growth closer to the Stanislaus River.

Former Planning Commissioner Tom Wilson who also served on the Vision 2020 Task Force in 1998 that helped devise abroad outline of what direction the city should take on the road to the year 2020, believes one answer is the city establishing urban limits.

“It’s like living within a household budget,” Wilson said. “Once you know what your limits are then you can go back and plan how you are going to allocate your money.”

By putting in place hard, fast urban limits as some communities have in the Bay Area, Manteca would be creating a concrete line in the sandy loam. It will allow planning based on a set amount of land to move forward and dictate the size of roads and growth patterns upfront.

Wilson noted the current pattern of development assumes there’s an infinite amount of land. Once you put an ultimate boundary in place, you make planning more precise.

“Knowing where your city will definitely end will allow you to taper road sand development down so that they blend seamless when it ties into a narrow country road with few houses along it,’ Wilson said.

Manteca has a definite DMZ line for growth in the west as the city abuts up to Lathrop and the San Joaquin River. That is not the case to the east, south and north.

Already, planning has been adopted that will bring Manteca up against Ripon in the south as the Austin Road Business Park is built out. It is planned for:

• 3.5 million square feet of general commercial or about 26 times the square footage of the Manteca Costco store.

• At least 2,358 traditional single family homes and 1,840 multi-family dwelling units such as townhouses, apartments, and condos  that can accommodate up to 10,200 people ore just under a seventh of the city’s existing population.

• 8 million square feet of industrial/business park, and office use or space equal to 17 times the coverage area of the Ford Motor Parts distribution center on Spreckels Avenue,

• The potential to create up to 13,000 jobs - or close to 50 percent of the existing jobs in the city - with between 3,000 and 6,000 jobs coming from the industrial and business park portion and up to 13,000 jobs from possible retail uses.

Om the north, French Camp Road ha already been adopted by the county as the ultimate boundaries for Manteca and Stockton. In the east, though, there is nothing stopping the spread of Manteca.