Image provided by Rider McDowell.
Image provided by Rider McDowell.

After a two-hour presentation and extensive objections by 10 out of 11 speakers, the San Benito County Planning Commission approved a resolution concerning the Betabel project on Oct. 12 in a 4-1 vote. The resolution certified the environmental impact report and adopted a conditional use permit for the Betabel Commercial Development located at 9644 Betabel Road in the unincorporated area of the county near Hwy 101.

The public has until Oct. 21 to appeal the vote, but to do so they must fill out an appeal form and pay a $1,067 fee. Additional planning fees of $100 per hour may be assessed and collected by the Planning Department. As of Oct. 18 there had been no appeals. If no appeals are received the Planning Commission’s approval is final.

The speakers objected to the project because they claimed the property was part of sacred tribal lands.

Abraham Prado, assistant director of planning and building services, explained the scope of the project that would develop approximately 26 acres of a 120-acre site. A farmstand of 6,800 square feet, a restroom with septic tank, and a 7,141 square-foot greenhouse for native plants have already been built.

“The design of the project will be reminiscent of 1940s and 1950s American roadside,” Prado said. “At buildout the project site will develop 108,420 square feet of commercial space, consisting of a gas station with a convenience store, a restaurant, amusement buildings with exhibits, a hotel with an outdoor pool and movie screen, and an outdoor event center.”

Prado said the project is estimated to generate $565,000 annually by 2035 for the county’s general fund and $2.4 million annually at full buildout. He said it is also estimated it will generate $183,000 annually for the Council of San Benito County Governments transportation projects by 2035, and $1.7 million annually at full buildout. Significant additional net revenues are expected to be generated from property taxes for school districts, he said.

Further construction will include a visitor center designed to look like a watering can from the exterior. It will provide general information related to San Benito County landmarks, activities and events. An informational exhibit will also be included highlighting the Native American history in the region.

Also, a Spanish revival-style motel of 116 rooms is planned. There will also be a single-story 3,250-square-foot conference center, and a 4,500-square-foot single-story building featuring nine additional motel room “villas.” The motel will include a lobby area, an outdoor pool and spa, and other typical amenities featured in boutique hotels.

The project site is one of four commercial areas known as “nodes” along Highway 101 identified in the county’ General Plan. A group of local activists known as Preserve Our Rural Communities and now going by Campaign to Protect San Benito County has been fighting the project through referendums and lawsuits since 2019.

Of the four nodes, only one, Rocks Ranch, has yet to submit a project application, San Benito County Public Information Officer Monica Leon told BenitoLink. She added the county does not anticipate an application to be submitted. 

The  Highway 129/Searle Road now has a pending conditional use permit for a project known as Travelers Station in a 2.5 acre parcel. Leon said it expects the developer to submit another conditional use permit application for an adjacent 21-acre parcel. The Livestock 101 node has been zoned commercial since 1990. 101 Livestock Market currently operates at that node. 


Related BenitoLink stories:

Betabel Road project continues to move forward 

Groundbreaking takes place for Betabel Road project 

Wildlife refuge phase of Betabel Road project begins 

Over 30 people protest the Betabel Road project 

San Juan Bautista planners take up controversial issues

Betabel project keeps commercial designation following lawsuit


John Chadwell worked as a feature, news and investigative reporter for BenitoLink on a freelance basis for seven years, leaving the role in Sept. 2023. Chadwell first entered the U.S. Navy right out of...