This community opinion was contributed by Jennifer Eagan. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.
What does it mean to preserve our rural community?
You hear this a lot lately, but what does it really mean? Saving ag lands? Preserving our rural way of life? Maybe it’s about something more personal, like stopping some gas stations, restaurants or motels from being built at freeway off-ramps near your house? I’m not so sure these environmentalists have our community’s best interests at heart. They certainly sold us a bill of goods. Somehow they’ll fix our big problems. Our problems? Or theirs?
Voting no was supposed to help our traffic. How? Does it get rid of all the people living here and in Gilroy and Morgan Hill that commute for decent paying jobs? And if Highway 101 traffic is the big issue, why fight against our poor county trying to get revenue from a gas station or a motel? Why not fight that big distribution center being built in Morgan Hill? That one that is gonna add a ton of semi trucks onto 101 at Cochrane! Oh wait, one of the founders of this group is that city planner in Morgan Hill. Can’t go against one of your own. Hint No. 1: Stopping a gas station or restaurant won’t fix our traffic.
And that other claim about stopping rampant growth. Tell me how this works? The measure was about commercial zoning. Not housing, where the rampant growth is. But people were fooled into believing a no vote would stop the housing developments. Hint No 2: It was never about housing. Residential zoning is not commercial zoning. Never was. Never will be.
During the campaign the activists dragged everybody through the mud. The end justifies the means right? Suddenly all our supervisors are corrupt. Any business group supporting Measure K is bad, and those evil developers! Neighbor is pitted against neighbor as some begin to question the snake oil cure of No on K. And what about those evil developers. Who are they exactly? Well there’s Ben Bingaman, the owner of Rocks Ranch. He’s been a rancher here all his life. This group claimed his development will disrupt the wildlife corridor. What they forget to tell you is he sold most of Rocks Ranch to Santa Cruz Land Trust to preserve it—thousands of acres. Now that’s preservation! They shout about saving the wildlife corridor, but some built homes in Aromas smack in the middle of the same wildlife corridor. So it’s okay for them, but not others? Hint No 3: It may not really be about wildlife either.
So the activists win and Measure K goes down. What does that do? Stop development? No of course not. Your neighbor was right, it wasn’t about development. It was about that new zoning language, it can’t be adopted or used by developers. That’s it. The owners of those spots on 101 can still apply for other zoning, it just has to be a zone already on the books. That’s what one of them did. The Betabel project. (You know, the project they claimed would build 30 houses, but in truth there will be no houses built there?) They applied for C1 zoning and supervisors approved the request because its allowed in the General Plan. Now these activists are suing the county over it. Litigation is expensive, so you gotta ask, how is this grassroots group paying for this? How can they afford a high-powered San Francisco lawyer, and who’s the deep pocket behind them? I found out the leaders of this group have been known by other names, like San Benito Rising, and have sued San Benito and other counties before. They just don’t sound very grassroots to me. Anywho, can someone please explain how suing our county is preserving it, forcing us to shell out legal fees in the middle of a crisis that’s already draining our resources. Last Hint: Bankrupting a poor rural community doesn’t preserve it.
Now they wanna sell us two more bills of goods. You buying? They’re gathering signatures so they can revise our county general plan and cut out a bunch of future commercial development areas (especially those ones near their houses). This makes me mad, since our whole community helped build that General Plan. Then there’s another initiative to draw a line around the edges of Hollister and prevents development outside it, unless a developer wants to pay for an election in order to get approval. (Wait if this group is based in Aromas should they be allowed to tell another city what to do?)
In our current economic crisis, they wanna stop business development. Did I mention they want to stop growth for 29 years? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. To be honest, I’m just not sure our county can take much more of their idea of “preserving.” It’s more like pickling us, if you ask me.