After Aromas residents failed last month to prevent the zoning change of four commercial nodes along Highway 101, the San Juan Bautista City Council rallied behind them to stop the proposed developments.
In a 4-0 vote at its June 18 meeting, the council directed the acting city attorney to draft a letter opposing the commercial nodes. Councilman Dan De Vries recused himself from the vote because he represents the property owners.
The four commercial nodes that were changed to Regional Commercial (C-3) Zoning District are known as Betabel, Route 129/Searle Road, Rocks Ranch and Livestock 101. San Benito county hopes the nodes will bring new businesses that attract motorists traveling along Highway 101 as a way to increase revenue.
Just as they did at the San Benito County Planning Commission meeting on May 15, residents voiced their concerns on June 18 about impacts to traffic, water and the landscape along Highway 101. San Juan Bautista residents Jackie Morris, Jolene Cosio and Cara Vonk joined in asking the council to oppose the county’s plan because of its potential impact on San Juan Bautista.
“We’re talking about massive development,” Cosio said. “It’s not going to increase tourism in our city particularly.”
She continued: “It’s so important not to destroy natural habitat, open spaces, ag land, water ways. It’s just not a good idea.”
Nine people spoke against the proposed developments, including District 2 Supervisor candidate Kollin Kosmicki who said the developments would forever diminish the beauty of the primary gateway to San Benito County. Councilwoman Mary Edge said she had read the 600-page report on the commercial nodes and thought it wasn’t well planned out.
“It just looks like a cookie cutter thing to me,” Edge said.
Council members Leslie Jordan and John Freeman agreed with Edge. Freeman, however, disclosed that he had had conversations with others, including De Vries, which enabled him to grasp both sides of the issue. He said that while San Benito County needs revenue, it should not be the county’s priority.
“The traffic, water and everything else overpowers that,” Freeman said, adding that it can take up to 30 minutes to drive from Rocks Road to Highway 101 and that the nodes would make it worse. Additionally, Freeman said he would not want the eucalyptus trees along Highway 101 replaced by turn lanes and off-ramps.
“None of that has been thought through and none of this has been planned for, so until I can see something really concrete that doesn’t destroy the things I just mentioned I cannot [support] this,” Freeman said.
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