By C.J. Barbre

This year Tulare County leaders will be making decisions that will affect the growth patterns for an expected more than 50% population increase through 2025.

In 2003 and 2004 more than 20 public meetings were held throughout the county to give residents a voice on what they would like to see or not see happen in the next two decades.

On Tuesday, March 8, the Resources Management Agency presented the consolidated findings of the fall and winter public workshops to a joint meeting of the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission. Staff worked with J. Lawrence Mintier & Associates, a Sacramento-based regional and urban planning consulting firm. They set out to identify, refine and evaluate three possible growth management models including city centered development, rural communities development, or proportional growth which would have the cities and unincorporated communities share the benefits and effects of growth, including sales tax revenue.

Bruce Race, who has been conducting much of the public meetings, told the gathering of appointed and elected officials that the top assets in the county were scenic and natural landscapes, cultural diversity and high quality farming. He noted that saving ag and protecting the rural travel experience were high priorities by those attending his workshops. They also wanted deliberate development on the Highway 99 corridor and not have development handled one community at a time, but rather a quality design and collaboration between the counties and cities. He said the four leading issues were air and water quality, economic diversification, urban growth, and social issues.

"When we did the alternative futures workshops we ended up with lots of different scenarios," Race said. "The magnitude of potential change is mind boggling." He said the current population is just shy of 400,000 and another quarter of a million people will show up in the next 20 years, an estimate he called conservative.

Scenario 1: City centered development

<$>This assumes that cities will accept additional population by increasing the density and developing contiguous land. The cities also continue to provide sites for urban commercial services and industry. This approach would not ignore the needs of unincorporated communities. Better housing, services, and infrastructure would be developed for rural communities.

This type of development assumes:

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