As District 2 county supervisor, I provide summaries of all regular board meetings and will publish those in Benitolink. Here is the recap of key items from the board meeting from June 14:
Moment of silence for Barrett, Jensen:
I requested a moment of silence at the meeting’s outset to honor two residents who recently passed away, John Barrett and Josh Jensen. Barrett was the longtime owner of McKinnon Lumber and spent many years as a volunteer and board member for the San Benito Saddle Horse Show & Rodeo. Jensen was founder and owner of Calera Wine. He was known as an innovator in the wine industry and received many accolades for his work.
Plaque for prior chairperson as new chair takes over:
Supervisors presented a plaque to Supervisor Bea Gonzales for serving as board chairperson from June 2021 to June 2022. Supervisor Peter Hernandez took the gavel as chairperson for the remainder of the year. He gave a speech about the board working together in a unifying manner while acknowledging the chair’s responsibility as being neutral with management of meetings.
Drought update and direction:
Supervisors received a presentation from the San Benito County Water District on the current drought conditions and their impact locally along with plans to increase water storage to deal with growth trends. District officials reported there is a 0% allocation from the state due to the drought this year and there is work being done to urge local residents to conserve water. I asked what’s in the county’s “toolbox” and what sort of precedent there may be for prohibiting traditional lawns in new developments. District officials also revealed they are exploring prospects for water storage expansion in the years to come to accommodate an expectation that usage will increase from the current 6,800 acre-feet/year to 12,500 acre-feet by 2045.
San Justo Reservoir closure updated:
Supervisors received an update on San Justo Reservoir’s closure since early 2008 from various entities including Congressman Panetta’s office, the Bureau of Reclamation, the San Benito County Water District and California Department of Fish & Wildlife related to the zebra mussel infestation. I requested the board have serious talks about exploring whether to reopen the facility for non-water recreation while work continues on an eradication plan. Federal representatives noted how the estimated cost for the eradication has escalated and there is a need to re-scope the estimates, which could now exceed $7 million. I expressed frustration that less than a decade ago the estimate was $2.5 million and involved agencies have not been serious enough about addressing it, leading to the continued closure and escalating costs. It’s quite disappointing that now, the feds are suggesting the county share some of the eradication costs. I underscored how the federal government should be responsible for the eradication of a federal facility ‒ especially considering we have no idea where the infestation source originated ‒ as the eradication is necessary whether or not there is recreation there.
Growth initiative certification accepted:
Supervisors accepted the certification of the initiative petition attempting to amend the San Benito County General Plan to remove commercial regional and thoroughfare node designations, and to require voter approval for future general plan amendments re-designating agricultural, rangelands or rural lands to other uses. Supervisors will receive results of an economic impact study in late June and are set to send it to the November ballot.
Major development project priorities discussed:
Upon my request, supervisors received a report on the status of pending major project applications expected to come before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors within the next six to nine months. Staff also requested the board give direction on top priorities due to limited staffing. I directly asked staff how much the upcoming growth initiative ‒ which would force voter approval on such endeavors going forward ‒ had to do with the priority discussion, and the planning manager said the initiative is playing a role in most planning discussions at this point. Some of these projects include the Betabel Road commercial development, Bill and Michele Lee’s 141-unit residential subdivision with an option for 25 additional ADAs off Fairview Road, the John Smith Road Landfill expansion, the Highway 129 & Searle Road Traveler’s Station/truck stop, and the Strada Verde Innovation Park project. In the discussion, I noted there was a newly announced proposal for 190 additional homes at Ridgemark and asked for clarification on two other housing project applications, while emphasizing I would like to see the number of units and a description of proposed developments going forward when they show up on agendas. As for priorities, I pointed out how board members have repeatedly stated single-family housing is not a priority and underscored I did not want the housing projects prioritized with the county’s limited staffing resources.
Zoning code update, direction:
Supervisors received a presentation and report on the ongoing Zoning Code overhaul. Staff and a consultant noted the code would be coming back for potential approval at the next meeting after receiving direction from supervisors. I had numerous questions and comments about the code after extensively reviewing the update, which was meant to fix outdated language, make it more reader friendly and implement the 2035 General Plan, among other objectives. Among the topics I broached, I requested a discussion on whether the board would look further at the planning commission’s level of authority on development projects while pointing out in some cases, the unelected commissioners can make relatively binding decisions. I made the case that the planning commission should be advisory only and that the elected supervisors should be held accountable for all development decisions. Three other supervisors ‒ Gonzales, Tiffany and Dirks ‒ said they would not support even considering such a significant change. Those supervisors agreed instead to have staff provide more “education” at the next meeting about the commission’s role.
Santana Ranch’s latest lots approved:
Supervisors in a 4-1 vote approved the final map for the latest round of 87 lots at the Santana Ranch development off Fairview Road. I voted no on the item.
Sales tax ballot consideration:
Supervisors unanimously decided against a possible sales tax measure for the November 2022 election to increase the levy from 8.25% while citing the current economic conditions.
Community Action Board appointment:
Supervisors approved the appointment of Thressa Walker-Shaw to the Community Action Board as the District #5 representative. The appointment is for a three-year term effective through June 14, 2025.
EMS agreement for Hollister Hills:
Supervisors approved an agreement with the State of California Department of Parks and Recreation for the Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreational Area to fund Emergency Medical Services and mitigate impacts of Hollister Hills calls for services on the EMS system for the term September 1, 2022 through February 29, 2024, for a total annual amount of $149,625.
Public Health space rental:
Supervisors approved the third lease option renewal with K&S Market, Inc. for Public Health office space at 351 Tres Pinos Rd., Suite A-202 for the period of July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023, in the amount of $8,082.00 monthly.
Landfill expansion contract:
Supervisors approved the fourth amendment to a contract with Lewis Engineering extending the contract to June 30, 2023 and add additional compensation in an amount not to exceed $243,305.00 (from Landfill Enterprise Funds) for a total contract amount not to exceed $652,760.
Community Solutions contract for sexually exploited children’s services:
Supervisors approved a contract with Community Solutions for the period of July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023 in the amount of $159,117. Community Solutions will provide services for commercially sexually exploited children to youth who have been identified by the agency and/or any other community agencies as being at risk of being commercially sexually exploited.
Sun Street Centers contract renewals:
Supervisors approved a contract renewal with Sun Street Centers for Women’s Sober Living Environment in an amount not to exceed $72,000 for the term of July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023; a contract for men’s sober living in an amount not to exceed $72,000 for the term of July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023; and required drug Medi-Cal organized delivery system women’s perinatal and non-perinatal residential treatment and withdrawal management in an amount not to exceed $201,220 for the term of July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023. There were several other Behavioral Health contracts on the agenda as well.