Plans continue to move forward for the Bellevue Corridor – roughly 2.4 square miles of mostly vacant land to be developed to accommodate the living and shopping needs of UC Merced students, staff and faculty.
The Merced City Council combed over the plans during a study session Tuesday on the Bellevue Community Plan. The council made suggestions on the wording in the plan, attempting to develop clarity for future councils and developers.
The land, which is near the campus, sits north of city limits and is expected to have space for residential, retail and industrial growth.
Bill King, the city’s principal planner, said the plan is meant to remain flexible and it offers no strict guidelines. “Having some preplanning in regards to infrastructure would be helpful,” he said.
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City staff has changed the plan’s wording after meeting with the community and stakeholders, he said. The city staff has removed all the references to the urban “village” style of development – circular development with commercial buildings toward the center.
Instead, the new theme is “Bellevue Urban Design” – an open design that calls for streets without walls, barriers or fences in front of buildings. The idea is to make the streets into large thoroughfares for cars, while remaining accessible to walkers and cyclists.
Mayor Stan Thurston said city staff has more work to do to ensure the environmental impact report for the area is consistent with the plan. That document still has references to the village design. “I’m just suggesting that it’s softened so it’s consistent,” he said.
Future councils and city employees could confuse what the plan’s intent was, he said, if the wording is inconsistent.
The Bellevue Community is generally defined by the area within G Street and Lake Road, Farmland Avenue and Cardella Road, next door to UC Merced.
The university has a goal to reach an enrollment of 10,000 students by 2020. Area leaders expect that many students and their parents will look for housing in the area. Leaders say persuading graduates to stick around Merced could lead to the development of new firms, and eventually a rise in the number of jobs and average income.
The committee that oversaw the Bellevue Community Plan’s development had a number of goals in mind, according to the document. For example, the committee wanted the Bellevue area to be connected to other parts of town, offer research and development parks and support downtown Merced.
Councilman Mike Murphy said he was looking forward to the plan but was left wondering how to strike a balance between the new development and downtown.
The city will have to make good decisions to avoid splitting up the city, he said. “How do we make sure we remain one strong community?” he asked.
The council is tentatively scheduled to decide whether to approve the plan in April.
Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.