Workshops put on by the Goleta City Council will offer residents a say in the first-ever Goleta General Plan, which will create policies for future development in the city.

The City Council will offer five workshops this week, with the first two taking place at the Goleta Valley Community Center at 5679 Hollister Ave. today at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. At the workshops, members of the Goleta City Council will explain the General Plan and listen to residents’ concerns and opinions – input that will help shape the plan’s policies.

The plan will eventually provide guidelines for development issues such as land distribution, zoning ordinances, environmental concerns, noise pollution, housing concerns and development of infrastructure. General Plan Manager Pat Dugan said he expects over 200 people to attend over the course of the workshops.

Dugan said a general plan is essential for a new city like Goleta because it will serve to guide the city’s future growth. He said these plans give individual cities control of their future, rather than leaving control in the hands of the county government.

“Cities in California are required to have documents to set policies of the community for the future,” Dugan said.

Council member Jack Hawxhurst said he expects members from numerous special interest groups will attend the meeting, but he said he hopes the audience will consist primarily of community residents.

“These workshops are about balance,” Hawxhurst said. “It’s about retaining the quality of life we’ve got. Balance, balance, balance.”

Dugan said he and the five City Council members – Hawxhurst, Mayor Jean Blois, Cynthia Brock, Jonny Wallis and Margaret Connell – created the workshops. He said each meeting will feature a 30-minute slideshow giving general information about the plan and then a brief open-mic session during which attendees can ask questions.

However, Dugan said, the workshops will primarily focus on smaller group discussions and incorporate the open-mic forum into the program. He said those attending the workshops will be divided into groups and will then discuss issues like the future development of Bishop Ranch, the largest open tract of land in Goleta, as well as how the city might accommodate its growing population.

Connell said she expects that the potential development of Bishop Ranch – whose 265 acres are currently allocated for agricultural use – will generate a lot of discussion during the workshops. Connell said the Larwin Co., a housing developer based in Orange County and represented locally in the Santa Barbara area as Urban McClennon, has expressed a desire to add a policy to the general plan that will allow for the development of Bishop Ranch.

She said the Larwin Co. has been meeting with groups like the YMCA in order to garner local support for development.

“The developers have a massive following.” Connell said. “They have been offering goodies for support.”

After the group discussions are over, the meeting will conclude with a general forum relating the results to participants, Dugan said. He said Spanish speakers will also be accommodated in two of the workshops.

More workshops will be held on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at 195 Brandon Dr., Thursday at 7 p.m. at 555 North La Patera Lane and finally on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at 401 North Fairview Ave.