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Proposed gas station in San Juan Bautista clears hurdles

Controversial development in engineering phase.

A state appellate court has ruled in favor of San Juan Bautista’s decision to approve a second gas station on the corner of Highway 156 and The Alameda and the applicant can now move forward with development.

The topic came before the San Juan Bautista City Council at its Dec. 18 meeting when San Juan Bautista City Manager Michaele LaForge said she put all available facts in the agenda packet because a lot of people have asked about the proposed gas station.

“It’s very draining for staff to be bombarded with these questions when there are certain things that have already been done and I just wanted to make sure the facts were on the table so that the public was aware,” LaForge said.

The development is separated into two commercial functions: a convenience store/gas station with 12 fuel pump stations, 46 onsite parking spaces, an electric vehicle charging station; and a quick-serve restaurant.

The project was first reviewed by the San Juan Bautista Planning Commission in January 2014 and approved on Feb. 4 that year. The City Council approved it the following month.

Frank Leal of Leal Vineyards, represented by attorney (and current councilmember) Dan De Vries, appealed the project in 2014 because he had wanted to build a boutique hotel and wine tasting room on the site. The City Council denied Leal’s appeal on Nov. 18, 2014.

The controversial gas station development was also the subject of a noise study in 2016 because of litigation against the city’s approval of the project.

The next step is for applicant Harbhajan Dadwal to provide the city with engineering plans for review, which can be presented 40 days after the Sixth District Court of Appeals decision, according to the San Juan Bautista staff report included in the Dec. 18 agenda packet. That decision was made Nov. 26, according to court records.

Dadwal also needs to submit engineering plans for the the slow down lane, entrance and exit of the gas station, and work with Caltrans to verify safety measures.

“I don’t want to spend a lot of time because this is a long meeting,” LaForge said. “All the details are [in the report] that the process that we’ve gone through in the last six, seven years.”

Insurance issues

Differences in liability insurance and mutual indemnification are slowing down the fire protection services contract between San Juan Bautista and Hollister.

City Manager LaForge said the city requires a $20 million insurance policy, but the proposed contract is for only $1 million. She added the contract was sent to Hollister City Manager Bill Avera the week prior for review.

Despite the discrepancy, Avera sought to move forward with the contract while allowing Hollister to look into more insurance coverage through an amendment.

“I can promise you that I don’t think I can ever get $20 million,” Avera said. “The city of Hollister is a self-insured municipal corporation and so anything above $2, $5 [million] at the highest, it’s going to cost a significant amount of money.”

Avera also said he would look into the indemnification clause as he is not familiar with how that works, but said it should be a simple fix.

The Hollister Fire Department will continue to provide month-to-month services under the contract that expired Oct. 1.


Planning Commission

Luis Matchain and Yolanda Delgado were elected to the Planning Commission, while Commissioner David Medeiros was re-elected.

The San Juan Bautista City Council interviewed five candidates for the three vacancies during the regular meeting after Councilman John Freeman argued, to no avail, that the process should be conducted in a closed-door session.



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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.

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