This community opinion was contributed by San Benito County Planning Commissioner Eduardo Navarro. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.
I would like to share the history of how the commercial nodes came to be proposed along Highway 101 in San Benito County. As a member of the San Benito County Planning Commission, I have seen the integrity of the process and the opportunity it presents for the residents of San Benito County. By having a well thought out general plan we can create targeted development and infrastructure improvements that will have broad and long-lasting benefits for the future of the county.
The San Benito County 2035 General Plan was adopted on July 21, 2015. Before its adoption, there was community input and public hearings to inform the goals laid out in it. One of the ideas from this process was to include the goal of promoting, “commercial uses on strategic unincorporated parcels in order to accommodate commercial demand, promote economic development, and increase revenue.”
I would also like to dispel the myth that our agricultural heritage is threatened by this proposal. This plan protects the environment and targets development on strategic parcels. Additional protections are in place such that the architecture and design of the nodes need to be reviewed and approved individually, taking holistic considerations like aesthetics, water usage, traffic control, etc. We do not want a county that is unidentifiable from the next like when driving through Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. We want to create destination markers that advertise a unique and distinct gateway to San Benito County, while promoting and safekeeping our unique agricultural heritage and identity.
The zoning changes that the planning commission voted on on May 15 simply reflect the implementation of the general plan and the arduous sessions, meetings and community input that took place over five years ago. These zoning code changes create rules for how we can use land in San Benito County to prosper and grow our county. The zoning itself does not create specific projects. No projects have yet to be proposed and the planning commission has not approved any project or development for the proposed nodes. This simply follows a zoning change in accordance to the General Plan. I am confident our guidelines for architecture and development are strong enough to ensure only highly worthwhile projects move forward while also pushing for tight project regulations and guidelines. That is because each proposed development must be approved through design review even if it follows the rules in the zoning code.
San Benito County’s General Plan itself states that, “The County shall encourage developers to reflect a cohesive vision for node development in site plans submitted as a part of applications for discretionary approval that recognizes the importance of the County’s scenic resources and local character.”
On May 15, the planning commission made the decision to move forward unanimously with rezoning four commercial nodes, referred to by the names “Betabel Road,” “Highway 129,” and “Rocks Ranch” and “Livestock 101.” I am proud of the process we conducted on the planning commission and for the economic and social benefits it will bring to our growing community, families, and youth.