Government / Politics

Hollister council in stalemate over property annexations

Marty Richman’s seat will remain vacant until November election.
The council meeting was conducted remotely due to the shelter-in-place order. Photos by John Chadwell.
The council meeting was conducted remotely due to the shelter-in-place order. Photos by John Chadwell.
Mayor Velazquez said the city's General Plan needs to be updated before any more developments be annexed.
Mayor Velazquez said the city's General Plan needs to be updated before any more developments be annexed.
Councilwoman Lenoir said she trusts voters to fill council seat, but does not trust the mayor.
Councilman Resendiz said his constituents do not want any more residential construction.
The late Councilman Richman had hoped to be at the April 6 meeting to vote on two resolutions.
The late Councilman Richman had hoped to be at the April 6 meeting to vote on two resolutions.

It became clear at the Hollister City Council meeting on April 6 that with the passing of Councilman Marty Richman, any developer hoping to annex their property into the city would most likely fail to win the council’s approval. That situation could last through the rest of the year, as the four-person council decided to hold off on appointing someone to fill Richman’s vacant seat, opting instead to leave it up to voters in the November election.

Before he passed, Richman told BenitoLink that he wanted to be at the April 6 meeting to resign, but not before addressing some unfinished business: namely, to vote on two property annexations, one at 1070 Buena Vista Road and the other on Meridian Street, adjacent to Marguerite Maze Middle School. 

“That’s all he talked about in the hospital,” Richman’s daughter Haya told BenitoLink on March 19. “He wanted to be there to vote on those things he was passionate about.”

Both annexations appeared before the four-person council on April 6, and neither passed.

First, the Buena Vista Road development failed to pass when the votes of opposing members—Mayor Ignacio Velazquez and Councilman Rolan Resendiz on one side, Councilwomen Honor Spencer and Carol Lenoir on the other—cancelled each other out. 

Council members did not vote on the second annexation after receiving a letter from the developer’s attorney that, according to Resendiz, suspended the application for the project because of Richman’s death.

“It essentially said since Marty Richman passed away they know it’s going to be a 2-2 vote and they don’t want to waste our time,” Resendiz told BenitoLink. “So they just wanted to withdraw.”

Before the meeting adjourned, the council voted unanimously to defer filling Richman’s vacant seat until the November election. Velazquez told BenitoLink the council did so because it was unlikely either side would agree on an appointment. Lenoir, appointed to the District 1 seat when former councilman Ray Friend resigned, said that she voted to defer filling the seat because she trusted the public to decide, but not the mayor. Spencer said she thought it was best to leave the decision up to the public.

According to Velazquez, “the public wins by default” when resolutions to annex properties into the city fail to pass. He said appointing someone, even when they state their positions on issues, doesn’t always work out.

“Who’s to say that person who got on wouldn’t be anti-development or pro-development?” he said. “They lie to get on and they become completely opposite of who they said they were. We saw that happen recently. ‘I’m for slower growth’ and then ‘hey, let’s get to it.’ If you have to lie to get elected, you shouldn’t be running for office.”

The mayor declined to name the public officials he was inferring to, though in the past he and Resendiz have accused Spencer and Lenoir on social media of being complicit with developers. 

“You want a good picture of this, follow the money and that will give you an idea of what people will be doing,” Velazquez said.

Lenoir maintained that the City Council agrees on many issues, but when it comes to planning, she said the two sides nearly always disagree. She said the tie vote on the Buena Vista Road project wasn’t unexpected. She added she was especially disappointed by how the item for the Joan Rosati property development adjacent to Maze Middle School went down.

“I don’t think they realize the amount of staff time that went into processing the application,” Lenoir said. “It’s pretty much a waste of city resources when you get down to the annexation after doing your due diligence. There is no reason to not annex that property. We should annex whatever properties we can into the city. I’m not saying develop them right away, but wouldn’t you want better control under the city?”

Some subdivisions are more valuable than others, Lenoir said, and rated the Rosati development a 10 out of 10 because the city surrounds it on three sides, it is next to a school, and it would connect Memorial Street to Santa Ana Valley Road on the opposite side of the lot.

“I care about circulation,” Lenoir said. “We don’t have enough roads. Here you have a developer who is going to extend the street. The city won’t do that because we don’t build roads. Developers build roads. This project had a lot of good things not only for the city residents, but people who live in that area.”

She said the Buena Vista project would eventually result in affordable homes.

“This is very frustrating and I don’t know when the California Department of Housing and Community Development will intervene, but I hope it’s soon,” she said.

Resendiz said he voted against Buena Vista because his constituents don’t want it.

“At the last meeting they [Spencer and Lenoir] voted on that to tie it up because they thought Marty Richman was going to come back and he was going to be the vote to push it over,” Resendiz said. “Then he passed away and we’re tied on that. It’s just not the time to be annexing. People are collecting signatures to stop us from doing that. I think it’s very selfish for anybody to consider doing that at this time.”

Lenoir said that business could be conducted when Richman was on the council.

“Now, we’re going to have a problem because the planner in me is never going to agree with them [Velazquez and Resendiz] on development,” she said. 

She added, “I think, moving forward with subdivisions, I would like to see them come with findings for denial. You make a case why this subdivision should be denied and I’ll consider it. They’re going to do the General Plan and nothing is going to change. Those two properties will still be zoned residential, so I don’t understand their point.”

 

John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a BenitoLink reporter and an author. He has many years experience as a freelance photojournalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer who has worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and underwent graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John has worked as a script doctor and his own script, God's Club, was released as a motion picture in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime that are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: johnchadwell@benitolink.com.