People brought signs to demonstrate their objections to Hollister allowing county connections to its wastewater treatment facility. Photo by John Chadwell.
People brought signs to demonstrate their objections to Hollister allowing county connections to its wastewater treatment facility. Photo by John Chadwell.

The June 20 Hollister City Council meeting turned into a marathon affair, going beyond 11 p.m., as council members considered two resolutions concerning the future of the city’s Domestic Wastewater Treatment Plant and the possibility of providing services to the city of San Juan Bautista and the San Juan Oaks development.

The first resolution was for an easement on the wastewater facility’s property and to ultimately provide wastewater treatment for San Juan Bautista. It passed with a unanimous vote. A second resolution concerning the San Juan Oaks development passed 4-1. Councilmember Rolan Resendiz voted “no” with a thumb-down gesture after telling his colleagues “you own it” if they voted to pass the resolution. Councilmembers Tim Burns and Rick Perez pronounced, “I want to own it,” as Burns made the motion to approve and Perez seconded it.

Resendiz, who says he opposes more single-family housing, wanted to reverse the city’s prior commitments to provide wastewater treatment. All other council members warned of inviting legal battles and approved San Juan Oaks’ use of Hollister’s treatment plant. 

According to Hollister Community Services Director William Via, future wastewater service, if approved by council, would also be provided to Fairview Corner at the intersection of Hwy 25 and Fairview Road. Fairview Corner is the future location of Gavilan Community College and 189 future homes, along with 474 homes and condos in Ridgemark and the Cielo Vista community with 48 homes. Cielo Vista has its own treatment facility but it is failing and would cost approximately $5.7 million to replace. Alternatively, it would cost $1.2 million to connect to the city, according to Via’s report.

A handful of protesters held signs declaring “No Caca” and “Hollister won’t take crap” to denounce the mayor and City Council for considering the resolutions. Resendiz took the opportunity to again accuse Mayor Mia Casey and Councilmember Dolores Morales of conflicts of interest for allegedly taking contributions from developers. 

Former Hollister Councilman Karson Klauer said county residents, as well as Hollister residents, pay for wastewater treatment services. Photo by John Chadwell.

BenitoLink found that Casey had accepted and returned five donations from five members of the Anderson family of Anderson Homes totalling $495. Hollister candidates and elected officials are limited to receiving $250 in donations from a single donor annually. Morales told BenitoLink on June 18 that she had not cashed the checks she received from developers and intended to return them.

Resendiz also got City Attorney Mary Lerner—who he failed to have removed during closed session also for an alleged conflict of interest—to confirm that the council was not legally obligated to honor any past councils’ decisions, particularly regarding San Juan Oaks.  

Casey said that if the council did not approve connecting the San Juan Oaks development, which interim City Manager David Mirrione revealed the developer had already spent $100 million on, the city would likely be sued. Resendiz said if she feared the city would be sued she should be in another line of business.

“Am I afraid of litigation? Always,” Casey answered. “Does that prevent me from making decisions? Absolutely not. San Juan Oaks operated in good faith. That’s the bottom line for me. They followed all of the steps. They went to the City Council and the City Council made commitments to San Juan Oaks. The city manager gave a will-serve letter that also gave them an assurance, and they moved forward and have invested $100 million.”

Hollister City Council voted to pass both resolutions to allow the City of San Juan Bautista and the San Juan Oaks development to connect to the Hollister Wastewater Treatment facility. Photo by John Chadwell.

“It is incumbent that the city has to operate in good faith as well,” she continued. “I cannot in good conscience allow the city to face substantial litigation that could really hurt us economically.”

Many of the protesters and even council members, were under the mistaken impression that Hollister residents solely funded the $120 million facility and were responsible for paying through monthly billings for wastewater treatment facility upkeep and operation. Several said that, while they had compassion for the residents of San Juan Bautista, and were against helping any developer in the county, they did not want services provided outside city limits.

During public comments, former councilmember Karson Klauer pointed out that some county residents also pay for monthly wastewater services. Community Services Director Via said if it weren’t for developer fees that now amount to $43 million, there would not be any money to pay for the needed upgrades. He also said another “expansion fund” of $26 million pays for daily operations of the facility. This money comes from the ratepayers. Via also said if upgrades were not made, the $43 million plus interest would have to be returned to the developers.

“Our current flow is about 2.6 million gallons a day,” Via said. “That leaves us about 0.80 million gallons a day or 800,000 gallons available for growth or increased flow. That’s based on an average of 161 gallons per single-family residential unit that allows for a growth of approximately 5,000 single-family residential homes.”

Coincidentally, the county’s 2035 General Plan Housing Element indicates that as of September 2021, California’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) issued a Regional Housing Needs Allocation of 5,005 units to the Council of San Benito Governments for the planning period of June 30, 2023, to Dec. 15, 2031. Of the 5,005 units, 4,163 were allocated for Hollister, 88 for San Juan Bautista, and 754 for unincorporated areas of the county.

Via said San Juan Bautista’s average flow is 0.16 million gallons a day and the agreement allows for a maximum of 1.2 million gallons a day. He explained that pump capacity and pipe size would prevent the city from surpassing the 1.2 million maximum flow. He said the agreement with San Juan Oaks would provide a 500,000 gallon flow per day, but at this time there is no flow because the projected 1,084 homes, a hotel and other facilities have not been built, and won’t be for several years.

He said the projected revenue would be $2.5 million to connect San Juan Bautista. Impact fees will be paid by any developer as they pull building permits at whatever the rate is at that time. San Juan Oaks will only pay treatment impact fees because it is building its own collection system. If wastewater treatment for Gavilan is approved, he said the impact fees will be minimal based on usage projections. Cielo Vista would pay $660,000 in impact fees. The developments at Fairview Corner would pay approximately $1.5 million in impact fees in today’s dollars, or more if permits are issued in the future.

Related BenitoLink stories

Hollister Wastewater Treatment Plant to the rescue | BenitoLink

San Juan council approves wastewater project agreement  | BenitoLink

SJB’s wastewater project receives $3 million from state | BenitoLink

Hollister residents may look at lower wastewater rates next year | BenitoLink

LAFCO undecided about jurisdiction over water service to Fairview Corner | BenitoLink

Developer of San Juan Oaks project has history in SBC

San Jose developer buys San Juan Oaks Property

Planners okay impact fees for 1,084-unit senior housing project

San Juan Oaks senior home development back on track

John Chadwell worked as a feature, news and investigative reporter for BenitoLink on a freelance basis for seven years, leaving the role in Sept. 2023. Chadwell first entered the U.S. Navy right out of...