Merced City Council Unanimously Approves Annexation of Virginia Smith Trust Land Development
After unanimous votes from the Merced County Board of Supervisors, Merced County Planning Commission and Merced City Planning Commission in 2023, the Merced City Council on Tuesday night also voted unanimously to approve the annexation and pre-zoning application of the Virginia Smith Trust General Plan, which will create a university community near UC Merced and provide millions of dollars in scholarships for local students.
The VST, created from the will of Merced-native Virginia Smith, was established to provide scholarships for “worthy, deserving and needy” students in the City of Merced. The trust has supported more than 3,000 Merced students through $6 million scholarships and grants since its inception in 1975.
In 2023, the Merced County Superior Court granted a petition to modify the VST and expand the trust’s ability to serve students countywide.
“Virginia Smith created a legacy for the students of Merced by bequeathing land for the purpose of generating annual income to provide scholarships. It is this generation's turn to complete the historic mission of making the dream for scholarships for all qualified students in Merced County a reality,” said Merced County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Tietjen, who also serves as executive director of the trust. “This project will transform Merced from a town with a university to a university town.”
The decision made by Merced City Council approved the annexation and pre-zoning of 654 acres of land located near the northeast corner of Cardella Road and Lake Road.
Merced Mayor Matthew Serratto said, "This decision, along with the adoption of a pre-annexation and development agreement, general plan amendment, establishment of a plan development, and the adoption of the Virginia Smith Trust specific plan, reflects the city's commitment to a sustainable growth and a vibrant future for UC Merced and the community at large. These are transformative actions that will undoubtedly shape the landscape of our community for the better."
The VST land development will not only generate revenue to support the recent expansion of the VST but also support the development of a university community which will include housing, shops, restaurants, parks and other community amenities.
The plan has one more action at the City Council level and then will move to LAFCO for final approval. Final approval is anticipated no later than June 2024.