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The San Juan Bautista City Council said it preferred that 13.3 acres of land north of San Juan-Hollister Road be used for commercial purposes, but it still approved the pre-zoning of the land east of Salinas Grade Road for low-density residential, as sought by applicant Kathleen Manning.

City Manager Roger Grimsley said that roughly 45 homes could be built on the property, though former Councilwoman Jolene Cosio countered that “more housing is not conducive to what’s out there. It’s such a great area and I hate to see it turn into more houses,” she said. 

Cosio added that she would prefer to see the land be used for commercial purposes. “I would love to see a hardware store or a Trader Joes,” she said.

Councilman Jim West agreed with Cosio, saying, “My first choice would have been commercial.”

Councilman Robert Lund said, “Expanding business-wise would be nice” and added it would be great to get people interested in the area.

San Juan Mayor Rick Edge asked if the area could instead get pre-zoned into something commercial, but Grimsley said the council would have to revise the newly-adopted General Plan and then zone it to conform to commercial uses.

Councilman Tony Boch suggested the council not revise the proposed zoning plan, but instead figure out some other way to encourage commercial development.

West said land owners should be able to use their land however they want to.

Boch continued the discussion by saying, “I’ve been here 55 years and haven’t seen anything industrial. It wouldn’t make sense to put 45 homes out there.”

Grimsley said, “I think we have tried to encourage agricultural business since we have Earthbound” Farms.

After the discussion, the council unanimously approved the initial study pre-zoning the land for housing.

In other council action,  the Youth Commission presented its annual goals and budget and said it plans to put together an environmental awareness event to highlight the drought, and teach young people about renewable energy, global warming and food sources in order to encourage them to make positive changes.

The Youth Commission got budget approval for banners, shirts and marketing material.

A new planning commissioner, Lorraine Coke, was appointed at the meeting. Coke, who oversees policy and operations at Coke Farm was appointed after being the only applicant. 

After residents voiced there concern about a Facebook post regarding a fictional 500-home subdivision, Vice Mayor Chris Martorana said, “I would encourage citizens to come to city council meetings instead of getting their information off Facebook.”

Boch and West agreed. 

West added, “come to the meetings, ask questions, get answers and then go from there.”

The next city council meeting will be held at 6 p.m. April 19 in the council chambers at City Hall on Second Street in San Juan Bautista.