County supervisors voted Tuesday to include several “Community Study Areas” in the general plan as a way to direct future development to specific areas of northern San Benito County. The 4-1 vote means that future development will be directed toward pre-designated areas closer to transportation corridors, police and fire services and non-prime agricultural areas. Supervisor Anthony Botelho was the sole no vote, saying the approval of such areas gives an unfair entitlement to developers who plan to build there.
“The last time we did this was with five-acre parcels and that turned into a lot of urban – rural sprawl,” Botelho said.
Despite that protest, the other four supervisors agreed that the designations allow for strategically placed residential projects that will accommodate future residents of San Benito County the most efficiently.
“Great communities are not an accident,” said Supervisor Robert Rivas. “They are planned and well-thought out.”
The general plan is already six months overdue and has cost the county more than $1 million. It faces several more months of delays, after supervisors fired the consultant originally hired to complete the document. To read about the complete process, click here. For a map of the Community Study Areas and the Planning Department’s status update on the project, click here.
The Planning Department’s summary of the update states:
San Benito County is comprehensively updating the 1995 General Plan to meet the changing housing,
environmental, economic, and growth needs of the county and to incorporate the community’s vision for
the future in the new General Plan. San Benito County’s update of the General Plan will serve several
purposes as follows:
• Provide a description of current conditions in the county that can be used to assess the current state of
development and highlight trends impacting the county;
• Provide information to the public on San Benito County and opportunities for meaningful participation
in the planning and decision-making process;
• Identify planning issues, opportunities, and challenges;
• Ensure the General Plan is current and internally consistent;
• Create a systematic and integrated framework for implementation;
• Improve coordination with cities in the county, and other local, regional, State, and Federal agencies
and organizations; and
• Provide guidance for County departments and decision makers in the planning and evaluation of future
Several members of the public spoke Tuesday on the update, both in support of the study areas and opposing them.
Resident Jeanette Langstaff noted that the Alternative B, currently being considered as the preferred option by the county, has been changed from the original plan approved by participants in a community workshop in January 2011 which included more open space and preserved agricultural lands.
“Could you please put more details?” Langstaff asked. She also suggested the county list number of acres dedicated to agriculture, residential and commercial uses. “That would be much more transparent and helpful,” she said.
Hollister resident Pat Loe urged supervisors to consider the local job shortage and focus more on industrial and economic development rather than building more homes in the county. Several attorneys with the local law firm L+G spoke on behalf of smart growth and urged supervisors to respond to residents who have asked for developments that will provide both economic and aesthetic value to the county.
“Dating back to 2004, the community supports well-planned growth,” said Paul Rovella, an attorney with L+G and lifelong Hollister resident. “Residents have stated they want growth that will provide infrastructure and preserve prime farmland. … We want to send a message that we are open for business.” He asked the board to make its policy consistent with what the public has asked for.
To read the full Draft General Plan, click here. Comment below on what you think about the county’s general plan.