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Firm hired to update General Plan

By state law a city must have a General Plan and it's time to revamp the one Ceres adopted in 1997.

But it's a costly adventure, as evidenced by the Ceres City Council's awarding of a $938,912 contract with Dyett & Bhatia, the firm that produced a General Plan for the city of Turlock.

Five firms submitted proposals and were interviewed. Mayor Chris Vierra said the San Francisco firm appeared to "stand out head and shoulders above the rest." The firm provided very detailed answers and gave a "very, very well-done presentation," he said.

Sophie Martin will be the project manager for the update, which is expected to take two years to complete.

Once produced and adopted, the Ceres General Plan will set policies and directions of how Ceres will grow into the year 2035.

The expense includes the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

"It's a pretty big deal, this item," said Tom Westbrook, the city's Director of Community Development, "and as a planner it's a fairly exciting endeavor to be undertaken."

He said the update will "reflect new trends and evaluate the effectiveness of the existing general to kind of set what policy direction we want for aesthetics, where we want to grow, utility infrastructure, etcetera."

Once the General Plan is completed, it will be the foundation for an update of the Zoning Code and the nexus study for Public Facility Fees.

Westbrook said the city has been thinking about an update for years.

Sewer and water funds are contributing $675,000 toward the work while $475,000 is coming from the proceeds of a bond issued by the now-defunct Redevelopment Agency.

Earlier this year the council awarded a $100,000 consulting contract for project management to Marjorie Blom.