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Transportation, Land Issues Part Of Valley Vision
Regional planner Daniel Meza was pressed into service to take down comments from the attendees at the Aug. 6 Valley Vision meeting on the future of regional transportation, hosted at the Escalon Library. Marg Jackson/The Times

From discussing bike trails to listing shopping preferences, a handful of Escalon residents turned out for the Valley Vision Listening Session hosted Aug. 6 by the San Joaquin Council of Governments.

The meeting, in the Ekholm Room of the Escalon Library, featured three representatives from the county and just over double that number of city residents. It gave those attending the chance to weigh in on a variety of regional transportation issues, as the county looks to develop a plan to meet those transportation and development needs in the future.

Kim Anderson, Associate Regional Planner for the San Joaquin Council of Governments, said all the feedback received at the multiple listening sessions around the county was important. And even though Escalon may be the smallest incorporated city in the county, she said the opinions captured here are also taken into account.

“We’re having a look at the data and just comparing it to the other listening sessions we have had,” she explained, noting that it will help determine the trends in county preferences.

Escalon City Planning Commission member Barb Willis was among the few that turned out for the listening session.

“There are seven of us representing 7000,” she said.

Each attendee was given a ‘clicker’ to record their choices for each of several survey questions, ranging from what they like about their community to where they prefer to shop, to whether they ever use or would ever use public transportation.

Anderson said the questions asked here were the same as those used throughout the county.

“We were careful to be sure that the presentation was similar in all the venues and jurisdictions so the data we are collecting can be easily compared,” Anderson said. “Overall we were happy with the turnout (in Escalon), given the size, it’s a small community.”

For those that were unable to attend, Anderson said they can still go online and take the survey, with the questions presented at each listening session asked at the website:

Also in attendance at the listening session from the county were Aaron Hoyt, project manager for the regional transportation plan and Daniel Meza, a regional planner who had the task of writing down community comments to go along with the responses recorded electronically through the survey.

Anderson said the process is moving ahead slowly, and residents will get another chance to learn about the regional transportation plan and comment on it later this month.

“Join us to help shape the future of transportation in the San Joaquin County Region,” she said.

The question to be answered, she added, is “How should the San Joaquin County region develop the transportation system to keep pace with growth?”

Escalon residents, based on the responses recorded at the Aug. 6 session, are content with the city’s slow growth ordinance, but also know that growth will come and there has to be a plan in place to account for that. Safety and the quality of schools got high marks from residents concerning what they like best about their community during the Escalon session, while the need to drive for some necessities and road conditions were among those things people liked the least.

As far as cutting down on congestion in the future, the scales tipped heavily toward having jobs and housing in closer proximity, with a full 80 percent of those attending citing that answer. The other 20 percent said having more frequent transit opportunities would be the best way.

“I think a lot of our congestion is from outside the area,” attendee Dave Willis said, suggesting they find a way to “push it off” onto another county, possibly linking up with the often discussed bypass around Oakdale.

Land issues were also a part of the survey and Escalon residents cited preserving private property rights (43 percent) as most important, with 29 percent listing preserving ag land as the most important issue for the future.

On the question of where future growth should occur, 43 percent said in existing cities around the county, with 29 percent suggesting growth adjacent to those existing cities.

A follow up Regional Transportation Plan/Scenario Workshop for Escalon will be hosted in conjunction with the Ripon area, the second round coming in joint meetings rather than having separate ones for each city.

The Escalon-Ripon session will be on Tuesday, Aug. 27 at the Ripon Library, 333 W. Main St., Ripon, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., with the second round going into more depth about the regional plan.

“Bring your ideas and opinions to share with us and other community members,” Anderson said.