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St. Patricks plans major expansion
Project includes parochial elementary school
Busy East Highway 120 is just a skip and a hop away from St. Patrick’s Church, as illustrated by this picture taken from the covered walkway of the building facing the road. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The Bulletin
RIPON – St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Ripon is gearing up for a major expansion that would include a kindergarten through eighth grade school for up to 200 students, a new church that is expected to double the existing church’s capacity, a chapel, convent and a multi-purpose building.

The proposed expansion, to be done in four phases within a 30-year span, is planned to take place on a 22-acre property immediately to the north of the existing church and St. John’s Catholic Cemetery right next to it on the northwest corner of East Highway 120 and Carrolton Road.

The first shovel of dirt could be turned this year. On Thursday at 6:30 p.m., the San Joaquin County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the use-permit application filed for this expansion project. The applicant is Father Peter Carota, the church pastor.

The public hearing will be held in the Public Health/Planning Auditorium of the San Joaquin County Department of Public Health Services at 1601 Hazelton Avenue in Stockton.

The county Community Development staff which reviewed the proposal is recommending approval of the use-permit application pending conditions of approval and findings attached to it. The staff has determined that the land use being proposed by the church for the property “will not interfere with nor alter the current land uses on adjacent properties.” Staff further stated in their report to the commission that the parcel which the church plans to develop will remain zoned agriculture with a 40-acre minimum.

Father Carota said the plan is to build the 2,000-square-foot  “little chapel” first.

“Hopefully, we’re going to keep (the building cost) down to about $300,000. Then we want to build the new church” which will probably cost from $8 million to $10 million, he said.

The new chapel is going to be used for daily Mass and for the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

The rest of the construction project as proposed will involve the following:

Phase II – building the 20,000-square-foot church with the building permits to be issued within 10 years from the approval date of the building permit.

Phase III – construction of the 50,000-square-foot K-8 elementary school and youth center, with the building permit to be issued within 20 years from the permit approval.

Phase IV – work on the 30,000-square-foot multi-purpose building and offices plus a 4,000-square-foot convent with the permits to be issued within 30 years from the date of permit approval.

The multi-purpose building is last in the proposed building schedule “because we already have everything here now,” explained Carota, referring to the existing church, parish hall and chapel that are currently being used.

“But the main thing is, our church is too small,” with a maximum capacity of just 350, he said.

Even with two services scheduled on Saturday evenings (the anticipated Sunday Masses, one in English and one in Spanish), plus three on Sundays (with the 8 and 10 a.m. services in English and the 11:30 a.m. Mass in Spanish), “people are squeezed in,” the pastor said.

The other problem is the traffic noise coming from busy Highway 120 which is practically at the foot of the church, thanks to Caltrans’ expansion of the highway about four years ago which forced the church to give up about 9 parking spaces in front.

“It’s so noisy on 120 for daily Mass. Then we have Adoration people come and pray all the time day and night and it’s so noisy,” Carota said.

The Adoration chapel is located in the hall on the west side of the church.

Carota said they already purchased the 22-acre lot for their proposed expansion to the tune of $1 million. “We closed escrow a year ago. We paid for that. We already have another $1 million (for the building project). God has really blessed us,” he said.

He added, “We already have money for the (building of) the little chapel.”

They also have another $1 million already collected to date for the rest of the building fund without having to hold any major fund-raiser, he said. Money for this building account is currently coming from donations collected from parishioners during the first Sunday of the month.

One letter of opposition

The San Joaquin County Community Development has received one letter expressing opposition to the church building project. The letter questioned the compatibility of a religious facility within an agricultural zone and its traffic impacts. It also questioned whether surrounding property owners were properly notified about the hearing.

One resident with property near the proposed expansion project called the Manteca Bulletin saying her farming family is opposed to the project because of the same issues mentioned above. The caller, who asked not to be identified, was concerned about the proposed signalization at Carrolton Road, French Camp Road farther west, and Van Allen Road farther to the east, all of which intersect East Highway 120.

“This is a major trucking route coming off 120. It’s a highway and you’re putting a stoplight on a major highway? Can you imagine what that’s going to do to the truck traffic? And this is a major traffic route. What’s that going to do to the truckers?” asked the caller who also happens to be a parishioner of St. Patrick’s.

“I honestly think there’s nothing wrong with the church we have,” she added.

She is also concerned that the notices about Thursday’s public hearing “only went to people living around the church.

“This (project) affects all the communities around here. This is a piece of property that’s zoned agriculture but the church wants to build, taking away more of our ag capacity. What about all the farm area around it? Is it all going to be rezoned? How much farm area are we going to lose?” she said.

Jason Jones of the county Community Development Department who is working on the church building project explained that in an agricultural zone, they are required to notify property owners within a 1,400-foot radius of this project because it is in an agricultural zone.

Jones said the property owners were sent an initial notice, “and were notified again for the public hearing.”

He said the hearing was also publicized, as required by law, in The Stockton Record. The reason for the newspaper notice is “to notify anybody else that live within that radius; we can’t send physical notices to everybody in the county.”

He added, “We use the Stockton Record (for the public hearing notice) because it’s the most widely circulated (newspaper) in the county. We did our best to notify as many people as we can,” he said.

A phone call to San Joaquin County Public Works  staff Bill DuBois seeking comment about the building project’s traffic impacts was not immediately returned.