'Key milestone' for General Plan

Dispatch (Gilroy, CA), 2014-06-19


June 19 --Since October 2013 , a group of 25 community members, consultants under a $1.75 million contract with the City and planning staff have been developing Gilroy's vision for growth through the creation of a new 20-year General Plan.

At the June 16 meeting, City Council unanimously approved 12 guiding principles that set goals for the far-reaching plan, from focusing on restoring downtown to preserving agricultural and open space for posterity.

"The General Plan represents, for a city or a county, a long range plan for growth and development--a guidebook, a handbook or an operating manual if you will," said Jim Harnish , principal of Sacramento -based consulting firm Mintier Harnish who is facilitating Gilroy's General Plan update alongside the Monterey -based EMC Planning Group . "It embodies a city's statement about where it's headed."

"Now that the council has given its blessing, this is a key milestone," Senior Planner and General Plan Project Manager Stan Ketchum added.

City staff and the consultants compiled the 12 principles from public comment at two community workshops and through other outreach efforts by Gilroy staff where residents shared their thoughts on what they like about Gilroy and what would you like to see changed citywide, Ketchum explained.

"We got hundreds of ideas and suggestions," he said. "All of those were distilled by our consultants into several themes that became the launching point for the guiding principles for the vision--which is the big overarching statement."

During the workshops, suggestions on how to reinvigorate downtown into a fully functional segment of the community were the most common, from restoring the unreinforced masonry buildings to adding more restaurants, Ketchum said.

But as Gilroy continues to grow-- Santa Clara County is the fastest-growing county the state, according to the Department of Finance --the balance between where developments spring up and where open space is preserved is an important one.

"Balancing where and how we grow with where and how we preserve open space on the community-wide scale is what we're talking about here," Ketchum said. "Ideally, we want to focus our growth where we already have services; if you continue to do that, you're almost automatically preserving open space."

According to Ketchum, Gilroy has the opportunity to preserve agricultural land and wildlife habitats by strengthening the next General Plan's policies. Exploring potential transportation options will also play a signifant part in future discussions.

Throughout the entire General Plan process, expected to be completed by June 2015 , the 25-member General Plan Advisory Committee , Planning Commission and City Council will be referring to the principles, including fostering economic growth, providing transportation to all and others.

On June 21 , City staff and the consultants will be hosting the third community workshop at the Wheeler Community Center , located at 650 W. Sixth St. , where Gilroyans can share their vision of what services Gilroy should work on developing between now and 2040. According to Ketchum, food and childcare services will be provided at the workshop, and translation services will be available.

For more information on the General Plan or to participate in the online town hall-style forum, visit townhall.gilroy2040.com .

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