File photo.
File photo.

This community opinion was contributed by Hollister Councilman Marty Richman. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.

I believe the right answer to the commercial node issue along Highway 101 is obvious and contained in county General Plan (GP) – put in a limited number (one or two) low-impact service locations.

As specified in GP item LU-5.3 New Commercial Regional Nodes, “development within these commercial nodes is encouraged to contribute to the preservation of scenic areas along the designated scenic corridors within the County” and item LU-5.4 New Commercial Nodes Vision, “The County shall encourage developers to reflect a cohesive vision for node development in site plans… that recognizes the importance of the County’s scenic resources and local character and quality of life attributes. (RDR)”

When I supported the GP I had that vision in mind, now it seems to have morphed into something completely different, but the GP still rules.

There was a reason that the busy intersection of Highway 101 and Highway 156 was not selected for a commercial node, the reason was to protect some of the economic underpinning of San Juan Bautista which is already a highway node and will be expanding into even a larger one.

A related reason was that the primary economic target was the through traffic using 101 to transverse the county; there was nowhere for them to receive service and information and leave taxes inside county lines. It seems silly to me to pass up that great opportunity; they will travel 101 whether we provide some service locations or not.

It never occurred to me that anyone would consider trying make these locations into any sort of destination. Need a theme? How about “low impact understated blending with the environment,” that’s the theme we should be looking for.

Multiple locations were put forward only because when the GP was adopted, we did not know which locations would be suitable and do-able, it was never intended to do them all, but it was intended to service both north- and south-bound traffic. That means either a crossover location (best) or one on each side.

I’m not going to go into all the obvious appropriate design features and amenities that should or could go into a low impact understated service node blending with the environment, use your imagination.

Now pick the right location and make that into reality; it certainly won’t look like Disneyland.