The Jefferson School District says Tracy should hold off on approving a proposed subdivision and water park until the district has an agreement with the developer to house nearly 1,700 new students that the homes will generate.
Tonight, the Tracy Planning Commission is set to discuss The Surland Co.’s proposed Ellis subdivision and aquatics park slated for the northwest corner of Linne and Corral Hollow roads.
The commission will also discuss a 30-year contract with Surland owner Les Serpa that will give him the rights to build 3,850 homes in exchange for 21 acres of land and a $20 million donation to the city to build what will be called the "Serpa Family Swim Center."
Surland wants to build 2,250 homes at Ellis, and Jefferson estimates the subdivision at full build-out will add 1,688 new students to the district, says Jefferson consultant Benjamin Dolinka. Another 1,600 homes will be built someplace else in the city, but when and where are questions that remain unanswered. Serpa has said he wants to build Ellis first and then decide when and where to build the other homes.
In a June 11 letter submitted in response to the report about the subdivision’s environmental effects, Dolinka says the district calculates it would take two new kindergarten through eighth-grade schools to house students, yet there "are no sites identified" at Ellis, nor an agreement "to ensure these schools can be funded and opened in a timely basis," Dolinka wrote.
The district also estimates it would cost more than $52 million to house new students — a number Serpa describes as "alarmist" — yet fees paid by Surland would only tally $12.8 million, based on the school fee formula.
The environmental impact report suggests the district’s four schools have space to add extra students, but Dolinka said it’s not enough. Without new schools, he said each school would have to add 422 students and build 17 classrooms to make way for Ellis students, which would cut down on land used for playgrounds and other future enrollment.
Dolinka says the extra students would add traffic to existing neighborhoods, require five extra school buses, and force the district to go a year-round schedule.
"It is the desire of the school district and the expectation of the community" that the effects of the new homes are addressed, Dolinka said.
Mayor Brent Ives says that’s his expectation as well.
"We’re not going to let any development proceed without an agreement with the school district," said the mayor. "I think that’s pretty standard procedure."
In a July 31 response to the consultant’s letter, Serpa said he was "surprised, and very disappointed" by comments made by Dolinka, who Serpa met just the previous day to discuss how to fairly pay for any future students residing in Ellis.
Serpa also disputed many of the district’s estimates.
Serpa said in that meeting with Dolinka, Jefferson Superintendent Ed Quinn and Garrett Gibbs, a Surland consultant, "all mutually concluded" that at most Ellis would generate 1,285 new students, rather than the 1,688 Dolinka projected in his letter.
Gibbs estimated there’s a good chance that Jefferson will have to house fewer than 900 students from Ellis, given Tracy’s demographics and declining elementary school enrollment. One new school built on 16 acres somewhere in Ellis should accommodate them, Serpa said.
If the district needs to house more new students than that, Serpa said Surland will pay its fair share.
Serpa also said it’s "contrary to law" to force a developer to pay more fees than the statutory amount.
The developer told the city he’ll continue to work "in good faith" to come to an agreement "that meets the needs of the Jefferson School District and the future residents of Ellis."