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General Plan Update Derailed
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A Riverbank City Council meeting regarding the city's plan to adopt a general plan update ground to a halt Monday, Jan. 26 when it was discovered the documents being reviewed by the council were different than those the city's consultants had prepared for the public.

Riverbank's General Plan update has been years in the making, having been reviewed by the city's planning commission in the form of a series of public workshops that began in 2005.

On Aug. 28, 2007, the planning commission forwarded a recommendation to approve the use of a draft general plan and recommended approval to the city council.

According to city documents, the city council has met extensively during the past three years to discuss the progress of the general plan update. The council eventually selected what is known as the Preferred Alternative as the basis for the draft General Plan elements they wanted included in the update.

The purpose of Monday night's meeting was to hold a public hearing in order to hear comments, and then to adopt a resolution to certify the final EIR, Environmental Impact Report.

The council was also scheduled to adopt a resolution approving the City of Riverbank 2025 General Plan based on documented findings.

In a presentation to the council, J.D. Hightower, Riverbank's Community Development Director, characterized Riverbank as preparing to undergo a tremendous set of changes over the next few years, with the city entering a period where it would become a more urban, self-contained community with an industrial base.

Mayor Chris Crifasi, attending his final city council meeting, had already opened the public hearing and the council had already heard from a number of people, when the council discovered some of the documents they were using had been updated earlier in the day.

John A. Hickey, an attorney with Hoge, Fenton, Jones and Appel, Inc., a consultant for the city, said those documents were different than the documents being used by members of the public.

Crifasi was concerned about the accuracy of the information on the documents used by the public.

"What was made available to the public is not the document we are looking at tonight?" he asked Hickey.

"That is correct," Hickey replied.

Hickey offered to provide the council with updated information, but Crifasi declined.

"I would feel uncomfortable in voting on something we haven't had time to look at," he said.

Riverbank city manager Rich Holmer recommended the council continue the public hearing to a later date.

Meanwhile, the council also is scheduled to meet in special session on Friday evening, Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. for the selection of a new mayor to take over the post vacated by Crifasi, who is moving from the area. Vice Mayor David I. White is slated to preside. The meeting will include discussion of the options available to the council to fill the vacancy, followed by nomination and appointment of a mayor or further direction to staff.