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County General Plan Open for Discussion

General Plan Comment Period Open until April

Review and comment your county's General Plan via BenitoLink.

County residents have an opportunity to comment on the General Plan Environmental Impact Report (EIR) through April 22, 2013. Copies of the document are available at the Planning Department and County Library. Residents may also view the plan online at

"We're happy it's available to the public and we look forward to receiving public input," said Assistant Planning Director Byron Turner. "We've been working towards this for five years and its quite a document."

Residents who have been involved in the draft General Plan held several meetings throughout 2011-2012. The plan consists of several development scenarios for the county's future residential and commercial growth, as well as preserving prime agricultural lands in the San Juan Valley. Planners have suggested that new development be limited to "infill" areas in the City of Hollister and designated "villages" in other areas of the county, including along Highway 25.

"Yes, I think it's a strong plan," said Scott Fuller, the General Manager of San Juan Oaks Golf Course. "It provides for some flexibility for economic development to occur and appropriate zoning for transportation corridors. It also opens up the potential for larger, master planned communities in designated areas while preserving open space and green areas, as opposed to five acre parcels scattered throughout the county."

Fuller also said the plan includes an "overlay" that would make it easier for wineries and other eco-tourism opportunities to open tasting rooms and other hospitality elements that could bring in much-needed tourism revenue to the county.

Supervisor Margie Barrios said she was happy to see the process moving along.

"It hasn't gone as quickly as I would have liked, we were hoping to be at this point a year ago," Barrios said. "But we're here now and eager to hear what the public has to say."

Costs for the plan have increased to more than $1 million after consultants had to supplement parts of an inadequate traffic element and carbon emission study, both required by state law in a county general plan. A general plan acts as a blueprint for land use and development decisions regarding a county's long-term physical development. The general plan expresses the community's development goals and incorporates public policies relative to the distribution of future public and private land uses. California State law requires that each county adopt a general plan "for the physical development of the county and any land outside its boundaries which bears relation to its planning." Typically, a general plan is designed to address the issues facing the county for the next 15-20 years.

The plan under review is meant to guide local land use decisions though 2035. The general plan is presented as a collection of "topical elements," of which seven are mandatory. The seven State-mandated elements are: Land Use, Circulation, Housing, Conservation, Open Space, Noise, and Safety. Each of the seven mandatory elements are required to be addressed by the general plan; however, State law allows these to be consolidated as long as the required issue areas are addressed. San Benito County's 1995 General Plan includes the following sections/elements: Environmental Resources and Constraints Inventory Land Use Element Transportation Element Housing Element Open Space and Conservation Element Noise Element Seismic and Safety Element Scenic Roads and Highways Element.A public meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 10 at 6 p.m. in the Board of Supervisors Chambers on Fourth Street to receive public input.

Other Resources:

A Citizen's Guide to Planning:

The California General Plan Glossary:

Letters may be sent to the San Benito County Planning & Building Department 2301 Technology Parkway Hollister, CA 95023

Phone:(831) 637-5313

Fax: (831) 637-5334

Gary Armstrong Planning & Building Director

Byron Turner Assistant Planning & Building Director

Leave your thoughts on the County General Plan in the Comment Box below:

Julie Finigan Morris

Julie Finigan Morris is a journalist and business owner. She has worked as staff writer for several news organizations, including Thomson Newspapers in Washington D.C., McClatchy Newspapers and Scripps News Service. She is also the Co-Founder and Owner of Morris Grassfed and has lived in San Benito County for more than 25 years. Morris has also worked in corporate communications, marketing, and the non-profit sector. She is a founding board member of BenitoLink and currently serves on its Editorial Committee. She recently published her first novel, Exit Strategy. Visit her online at