Updated to include comments from Supervisor Anthony Botelho and PORC. Additional update to include correct figures on ballot measure costs.
The referendum put forth by Preserve Our Rural Communities (PORC) to overturn the rezoning of four commercial nodes along Highway 101 took one step closer to being a reality this week.
The San Benito County Registrar of Voters has determined the petition has met the statutory requirement to be sufficient, according to Angela Curro, assistant clerk-recorder. PORC turned in a petition with 4,428 signatures on Oct. 23; only 2,060 signatures needed to be validated to qualify.
The elections office’s findings will be submitted to the San Benito County Board of Supervisors at a Nov. 19 meeting, and the official report will be available upon agenda review and posting.
“The Elections Office notified PORC a couple of days ago that our petition had a sufficient number of signatures,” said Andy Hsia-Coron, PORC president and spokesperson. “PORC’s 82 volunteers did an incredible job collecting over 4,400 signatures in less than 30 days. They spoke to countless voters who are opposed to runaway growth. We hope our Supervisors heed the voters.”
Earlier this year, San Benito County rezoned four sites—Betabel, SR129/Searle Road, Rocks Ranch and Livestock 101—in an effort to increase revenue by attracting Highway 101 motorists to spend money at the nodes, which could include hotels, fast food restaurants and gas stations. Concerns of those opposed to the rezoning include traffic, water, wildlife and a potential threat to the San Juan Bautista business community.
Deputy County Administrative Officer Edgar Nolasco previously confirmed that if the petition was found to be sufficient, the rezoning ordinance would be suspended and not go into effect.
Supervisors will now have to decide whether to repeal the rezoning ordinance or place it before voters. The deadline for the board to put a measure on the March 2020 primary election ballot is Dec. 6. Countywide ballot measures can cost between $15,000 to $20,000 to consolidate for a presidential primary (March 3), $200,000 to $250,000 for a special election (not consolidated), and $5,000 to $15,000 to consolidate for a presidential general election (Nov. 3) to put before voters, according to the elections office.
“PORC would have us believe that the C-3 zoning ordinance would allow us to have massive residential, big box shopping stores and huge amusement parks in the Highway 101 corridor. Nothing can be further from the truth,” Supervisor Anthony Botelho told BenitoLink on Nov. 7. “The new zoning ordinance limits the size of new commercial areas and must meet design restrictions reviewed in a public process. The 2015 general plan for the county and the C-3 ordinance does encourage some business opportunities, local jobs, and much needed tax revenue for the county to improve our roads, parks and local governmental services while protecting the environment and maintaining our San Benito County character.”
He added: “I would encourage everyone to go to the San Benito County website in the section of recent news, read the ordinance and judge for yourself.”
Representatives for PORC were not immediately available for comment.
The next Board of Supervisors meeting is scheduled for Nov. 19.
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