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Is Manteca about to get on a better growth course?
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Brace yourself for a watershed event.
The Manteca City Council is posed in one fell swoop to set in motion seismic changes in how Manteca grows while upping its fiscal responsibility game.
For years Manteca’s growth has been guided by three forces — textbook planners, having the proverbial eyes bigger than what elected leaders and the community were willing to stomach in fees, and the caviler attitude reminiscence of the Titanic captain that the ship is unsinkable so there is no need to change course.
The fees to pay for growth’s share of roads that they create a demand for has gone unchanged since 1993 when a median priced new home in Manteca was selling for $125,000.
Meanwhile hired guns — like DeNovo planners now adjusting Manteca’s general plan that serves as a blueprint for growth — make big bucks coloring maps for zoning uses and drawing lines for roads in a vacuum. They may know formulas and have degrees in planning but their understanding of the community terrain and desires is so shallow they barely get their feet wet. Consultants patronize citizens as they listen to input and then take the political correct way forward appeasing the folks that write their paycheck by simply tweaking what is in place.
That’s not referring to elected officials per se but the staff they deal with that have a vested interest in their life’s work so they fail to see changes on the political landscape.
 Against that backdrop the captains — elected officials — have been convinced by staff that the course staff played the biggest role in shaping is bulletproof.
The charade is about to end.
It started unraveling in July when the council — led by Councilman Richard Silverman — finally said the words and meant them that Manteca can no longer afford to hang on to a vision molded 30 years ago.
Silverman stated the obvious — Manteca cannot afford a road system designed for champagne tastes on a beer budget. Killing off two envisioned interchanges along Highway 99 at Lovelace Road and the Raymus Expressway slashed almost a third of the $310 million the city needed to collect from growth over the next 20 years. It also saved existing and future taxpayers up to $100 million as well given the growth fees can only legally collect a part of the overall cost.
Some have slammed previous councils for not raising fees for roads in a timely manner. In retrospect, that was the best thing that could have happened for Manteca.
The need for the Raymus Expressway has been diminished greatly by two things — the 200-year flood plain mandate and the redesign of the 120 Bypass and Austin Road interchanges on Highway 99.
The Lovelace interchange is a textbook example of planners calling on Drawing Road Lines on a Map 101 course work to plan in a vacuum.  Not only does north of Manteca lack larger parcels conducive for large scale development to justify  another interchange between Lathrop and French Camp roads but it is also where Delicato Vineyards winery sits. The family that runs one of the largest wineries in the world and are getting ready for a major expansion isn’t going to sit still for urban encroachment nor will many of their neighbors.
And, if the current council wants to really go to town reversing problems that holding into the same growth and proposed road patterns that everyone has acted as if were cast in concrete for the last 25 or so years, they might want to use the current general plan update to address the issue of job creation.
Mixing residential, commercial, and business parks aren’t ideal given truck traffic. Spreckels Park, in the city’s defense, was a special case were the removal of a shuttered sugar beet processing factory that could have had a cancerous blight on the community, would not have happened without the business park providing the financial leverage.
The Austin Road interchange as the state envisions creates a major access point for development east of Highway 99. It makes a lot of sense to zone that area as a future answer to Tracy’s Mountain House Parkway for the development of large distribution centers and other such projects. The only other feasible area for such development on the map in Manteca without creating truck traffic issues mixed with predominately retail and residential traffic is the business park proposed south of the Austin Road interchange.
Manteca certainly doesn’t need to waste prime freeway frontage for more housing. The city has got more than adequate zoning for commercial for the next 20 to 30 years between interchanges on the 120 Bypass as well as near the Lathrop Road and Highway 99 interchange. That is especially true with the rise of online shopping.
The City Council tonight not only can exert some control over runaway growth issues such as a road system that is overkill for reasons that would fill this page, but it can also start changing the course of the city’s ship so it doesn’t slam into an iceberg of frozen growth concepts hailing back to 1990 and send the quality of life and Manteca’s ability to support it plunging into the watery graveyard reserved for those who believe in their own follies.