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Residents: Enhanced downtown a must
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At 21, Jason Laughlin represents the future.
As an alternative to the Manteca City Council-appointed General Plan Advisory Committee, he’s was the youngest person involved at the visioning workshop at the Transit Center on Thursday.
Laughlin and the nearly 40 in attendance agreed that revitalizing and enhancing downtown and preserving green space, farmland and orchards should be the core of the city’s growth in going forward and through 2040.
“We’re all passionate about Manteca,” he said, referring to those at the second installment involving community participation of the general plan update.
A third and final visioning workshop is planned for Thursday, April 20, at 6:30 p.m.
The purpose of the sessions is to develop a vision statement and create components that could be useful in shaping this document, according to Ben Ritchie of the DeNovo Planning Group.
The principal of the El Dorado Hills-based firm noted that the three community sessions are part of the process in developing the vision statement and creating components that will shape the direction of this document.
“With the vision statement, we’ve using the general plan as a guiding principle,” said Ritchie, who also spent time in Brentwood, Sebastopol and Colusa County using much of the same process to update their general plans.
The general plan update in Manteca could take up to two years or more under the timelines. The purpose is to provide a long-term vision for a 20-year time frame or 2040.
“It’s common for cities to update the general plan,” Ritchie said.
Some of the ideas bandied about at the workshop included extending the local bike path to link to Lathrop and Ripon, extending the business district along Yosemite Avenue to Manteca High, installing a gateway – possibly Highway 99 and Lathrop Road – welcoming visitors to town, and opening up Atherton Drive just south of the Highway 120 Bypass to help ease traffic in the area.
They also agreed that the city should continue to enhance family-oriented gathering places while provide more local and high-paying job opportunities.
Downtown appears to be key to the future of Manteca.
“We need to embrace our downtown,” said Laughlin. “We shouldn’t have to avoid it.”
Ideas to enhance the area included an upscaled performing arts center, movie theaters and fine dining places similar to that of Livermore or Modesto.
Erika Durrer and Aaron Bowers were among the first-timers at the vision workshop. No surprise, they displayed grasp of growing trends of the city.
Both are part of Manteca Unified’s Growth Steering Committee formed to respond and plan for future growth, using a comprehensive strategy to gather input necessary to meet the needs of all students.
“It was interesting to see how similar it is between the school district and the community,” said Durrer, who is the MUSD Facilities Planning Supervisor.
Bowers is Director II of Facilities and Operations.
One of the activities of the workshop consisted of breaking those in attendance into smaller groups to further share their ideas.
They were assigned to craft a general plan vision statements, using one to three sentences based on the guiding principles of the general plan and were provided a map of Manteca to draw up areas of destination, the defining features of the city, and possibly new community gathering places.
Following the workshops, Ritchie said the process will move on to a pair of open house workshops followed by 12 GPAC meetings before going to the Manteca Planning Commission for a series of sessions.
During that span, the general plan update will have covered the nine necessary elements – Circulation (transportation decisions for autos, bikes, pedestrians and transit), Public Facilities and Services (adequate planning for community services and facilities), Land use and Community design (land use designations and patterns, defining the community character), Conservation and Open Space (natural and cultural resources, waterways and open space land), Economic Development (tools and strategies to strengthen and diversify the local economy), Housing (all segments of the community while addressing state requirements), Safety (fires, geological hazards and hazardous materials), Noise (related issues at residences and schools), and Air Quality (reduce energy uses and improve local and regional air quality).

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