Drive out along Fairview Road in Hollister and you might be surprised to find construction has started on Award Homes’ West of Fairview development. What’s unusual is that work on the 660-home project began without a Hollister City Council vote.
The development’s final map was up for a vote at the Dec. 2 council meeting, but council members chose not to vote, leaving the map to automatically move forward in the approval process through a state code.
“The item is dead for a lack of a motion,” Mayor Ignacio Velazquez said at the Dec. 2 meeting after none of the councilmembers offered to make a motion.
According to Councilman Marty Richman, no one voted on the final map during closed session either. But by doing nothing, there will eventually be another 660 homes and apartments. This is in addition to 206 units in the Roberts Ranch development, also along Fairview Road, which was approved on Jan. 21.
This turn of events is allowed by a California law which states: “If the legislative body does not approve or disapprove the map within the prescribed time, or any authorized extension thereof, and the map conforms to all requirements and rulings, it shall be deemed approved, and the clerk of the legislative body shall certify or state its approval thereon.”
City engineer Danny Hillstock spoke to BenitoLink on Feb. 3 about the approval.
“The city clerk certified the approval of the final map pursuant to GC 66458B and the map was filed with the recorder’s office for recordation last week.”
The West of Fairview development was approved in 1992. The developers met all environmental and governmental requirements; councilmembers were aware of the state law and that if they did nothing, the West of Fairview project would be approved.
Each individual council member has taken public stances on development—Richman, Honor Spencer and Carol Lenoir tending to vote for; Rolan Resendiz and Velazquez against—prior to Dec. 2, when no one could muster up a motion.
“The truth of the matter is, some people have a public stance and then when the voters aren’t looking they have a different stance,” Richman said, “because they know they have a legal obligation to approve these developments. And by not doing anything, they approved it. They can make believe they’re not approving it, but they are.”
Richman said he did not vote on the development in order to bring attention to what Velazquez and Resendiz were doing.
“I wanted to show the public that the two people who claim to be voting ‘no’ can only vote ‘no’ because the other three have to vote ‘yes,’” he said, “ to keep [the city] from being sued. Had we voted ‘no’ we would have been sued, we would have lost, and the taxpayers would not only have winded up with the development, which had legal entitlement many years ago, but they would also wind up with the bill going to court.”
He said Resendiz and Velazquez refused to vote in closed session, so there was no point in the other members voting.
“I can’t tell you what they said, but there were words exchanged that indicated they had no intention of voting,” he said. “They didn’t vote and they were well aware of the fact that by not voting they were approving the development.”
Even though in 2017 he voted against forming a Community Facility District to fund the West of Fairview project, Velazquez told BenitoLink that the development itself had been approved years ago (1992). In response to Richman’s accusation, he said, “Marty can make all the claims he wants and they are false. This is just another one.”
Velazquez said the public knows his position.
“We need to stick to the General Plan,” he said, “then put together a better plan to make sure we’re not making the same mistakes as in the past, and we’re getting as much as we can for every project rather than just keep approving them and making excuses.”
He said the other council members keep voting for projects because they say they have no choice, but he did admit that such was the case for the West of Fairview project. Velazquez would not directly answer Richman’s accusation about playing to his voter base, but said that in the case of Award Homes’ West of Fairview project, council members had few options.
“Award Homes has been around since the ’90s, but a lot of the other projects have been developed in the last few years,” he said, maintaining his position against other developments.
An item concerning the West of Fairview development is scheduled to be heard at the Feb. 18 Hollister City Council meeting.
Other related BenitoLink articles: