Over a dozen county residents from the coalition Protect San Benito County gathered at the county elections office at 440 Fifth Street on Jan. 31 to submit an initiative titled “Let Voters Decide How San Benito County Grows.”
According to the initiative, its purpose is to protect the quality of life of residents in San Benito County, preserve the county’s agricultural, biological and cultural resources, promote infill development and reduce sprawl development by allowing voters to exercise greater control over land use decisions within the county.
If passed as an ordinance by the Board of Supervisors, or approved as a ballot measure by voters, the initiative will change the process in which properties are rezoned. County voters would approve or reject rezoning applications; they would no longer be decided by the Board of Supervisors. The full initiative is here.
Senior Deputy County Clerk Ana De Castro Maquiz said the county counsel has been given the initiative and has until Feb. 15 to return an official Ballot Title and Summary to the proponents. The coalition will thereafter have 180 days from its Jan. 31 submission date to collect 2,060 valid signatures on its petition. If these signatures are obtained, the Board of Supervisors will then have the option to adopt the initiative as an ordinance or place it on the ballot for voter approval.
Maquiz said the deadline to submit a measure for the November 2022 general election is Aug. 12.
Andy Hsia-Coron said there is a recent history where the public rejected developments, referencing the 2020 Measure K and Strada Verde initiatives.
Measure K repealed Ordinance 991, which created regulations—or development standards—for Regional Commercial (C-3) zoning approved by the county in September 2019. The county rezoned four properties along Highway 101 known as nodes to C-3 through Ordinance 992 at the same meeting, but that decision was not challenged by residents.
Preserve Our Rural Communities (PORC), the group behind Measure K, is in a legal battle with the county over rezoning the Betabel property along Highway 101 to C-1.
Hsia-Coron, president of PORC, said Protect San Benito wants to give San Benito County voters the choice to decide on how the county grows.
“What this really does is instead of us having to fight each fire that breaks out, the understanding is that no major rezoning happens without it going to the vote of the people,” he said. “I think that would lead developers and the elected officials to try to figure out how to make whatever development patterns we have actually meet the people’s needs.”
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