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LAFCO approves Hollister annexation of 49.5 acres

Commission also adds 102 acres to Hollister’s sphere of influence for likely annexation in the future.

The San Benito County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) approved the annexation of 49.5 acres from unincorporated county land to the city of Hollister for future development. The annexed parcels of land are located between North Chappell Road and Highway 25.

The annexation passed Jan. 10 on a 3-2 vote of the LAFCO board, which is comprised of representatives from county jurisdictions. San Juan Bautista Councilman Dan DeVries, San Benito County Supervisor Anthony Botelho and citizen representative Richard Bettencourt voted in favor of the annexation, while Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez and Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz opposed it. Velazquez took to social media in the days leading up to the vote to state his opposition to the annexation and proposed development.

According to the meeting agenda packet, the parcels are classified as prime farmland in the State’s Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program because it has the best soil quality. "Land that has the best combination of physical and chemical characteristics for producing food, feed, forage, fiber, and oilseed crops and is also available for these uses," according to the USDA. This means the developer is required to place conservation easements on farmland at a 1-1 ratio or pay an equivalent in-lieu fee.

The commission also added 102.1 acres to Hollister’s sphere of influence, which is expected to be annexed at a later date. An environmental impact report estimates a maximum of 802 residential units and 303,000 square feet of commercial space could be developed in the area.

According to the agenda packet, the purpose of the sphere of influence, which remains under county services, is to identify property where growth in services or population is anticipated. The agenda packet states the area is expected to be fully built out by 2025.

LAFCO Executive Officer  Bill Nicholson told BenitoLink the development estimate was based on water projections, but he expects development to take longer.

Before DeVries made a motion to approve the annexation, he asked for clarification on what project was being approved or whether it was just the annexation.

Nicholson said the project is the potential development of the 102.1 acres of sphere of influence, which would be up to eight units per acre.

Four residents spoke against the annexation, including Hollister Councilman Rolan Resendiz, who in recent days said he was against the annexation on social media.

Resident Tom Stirewalt cited traffic issues near the annexed parcels and said future development would rely heavily on either Maple Street or Chappell Road to enter or leave the neighborhood.

“I’m adamantly opposed to this even though it’s within the sphere of influence of the city,” Stirewalt said. “There needs to be more roads, wider roads…”

Dawn Koistinen said she is concerned about the already high traffic with new development, Maple Park, in progress on the corner of North Chappell Road and Maple Street.

Koistinen also read from a letter by California Highway Patrol Captain S.E. Parker in the EIR arguing against further residential development along Highway 25 “unless significant road improvements are made.”

Although voters approved Measure G to widen Highway 25, there won’t be any changes to the road in the next seven years, Koistinen said, and building homes for commuters won’t help the issue.

“Our streets are already heavily traveled,” she continued. “I don’t know if you ever drive down Maple Street, but it’s like a raceway.”

Victor Gomez, president of local lobbying firm Pinnacle Strategy and a former Hollister City Council member, spoke in favor of the annexation as a representative of annexation applicants Charles Davidson, Brigantino Family Farms LLC, J&V Brigantino Family LP and Pad Investment Trust. He provided a timeline of the applicants’ process.

In that timeline, Gomez said the Hollister City Council unanimously adopted a resolution in April 2015 to approve the prezone application of more than 31 acres, essentially initiating the annexation process. Gomez noted Mayor Velazquez’s vote to support the resolution at the time.

Gomez said the planned development was an infill project with the Highway 25 bypass in place and that the area was marked for new homes in the city’s general plan since at least 1995.

Velazquez responded after public comment, saying that Gomez is now a lobbyist for the developer. He also called the annexation a major mistake.

“I’m not against growth,” he said. “I’m actually pro growth. The problem is I’m 100 percent against stupid growth.”

Gomez told BenitoLink on Jan. 16 that he was hired by the property owners to navigate the project through the entitlement process to get a tentative map approved. Once the map has been approved, owners can sell the property to a developer or complete the project themselves, he said.

Resident Richard Ferreira said all the acreage included in the increase of the sphere of influence should also be annexed because the city is not growing fast enough. He said the city needs to catch up from the the eight-year building moratorium that took place in the early 2000s that stopped commercial and residential growth.

“Commercial developers continue to tell us they don’t come here because we don’t have enough rooftops,” Ferreira said. He added that the city cannot survive only on impact fees, and that sales tax revenues are needed.

Bettencourt, the citizen representative on the LAFCO board, said he questioned staff with the same concerns that residents brought up. He said if they stop growth within the Hollister sphere of influence, it will take place elsewhere in the county, which he believes is a bad option. For that reason, he supported the annexation.

Commissioner De La Cruz said he opposed the annexation because of concerns from the neighboring community and because the Maple Park project created traffic and quality of life issues for those residents.

Velazquez made the first motion to deny the annexation, but failed on a 2-3 vote with De La Cruz being the other yes.

 

 

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Noe Magaña's picture
About:
Noe Magaña (Noe Magaña)

Noe Magaña is a freelance writer for BenitoLink. He also experiments with videography and photography. A San Benito High School graduate with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily.

Comments

Submitted by (cathy) on

When will our city government begin to work together and in sync with its residents?  

When will our city government develop a plan of growth that makes sense, that takes its time, that meets the needs of the community rather than bulking up to line the pockets of the squeaky wheels?  Putting first things first?  Our infrastructures are in desperate need of attention.  Those existing issues should be addressed BEFORE we even worry about putting in place new builds, bringing in corporations...we can't handle what we have now! If there was a plan...one that everyone agrees to, we could be a city of gleaming quality.  Why not start there?  Why not begin again? Why not STOP the craziness and wind down so that everyone can see and hear one another.  It feels like we are in the middle of a windstorm, being pelted and blinded by all that whips through our city without protection, without shelter, without a way out. We are losing the battle!  What do we want people to know about Hollister?  That their government was so concerned about money-making that they forgot about the people?  That there is so much mish mash around the unplanned city that nothing makes sense?  That they so desperately sought to line their pockets that they forgot about the people- those who make the city productive, who pay their salaries, who pay the taxes. We do not feel valued.  We do not feel that the ground we walk on, the ground that feeds us, the ground in this beautiful valley is not valued as it should be. It is sad. Those who work this soil are not cared about or thought about as the push for progress trods onward...stepping right over those of us who love it.   When will we learn? 

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