In its effort to develop a regional park near San Benito High School, San Benito County changed its General Plan land use designation for a property owned by the high school at a Feb. 17 Planning Commission meeting.
Commissioners unanimously approved changing two properties from Rural Residential to Parks District in the General Plan designation. County planner Michael Kelly told BenitoLink no actual change in property zoning had occurred.
One property is owned by the San Benito High School District and the other is owned by the county. The area owned by SBHSD is used for recreation, with several trail routes near the San Benito River.
San Benito County, Hollister and SBHSD have been in negotiations since 2016 to close the part of Nash Road that intersects with the high school, implement safety road improvements and plan for the regional park.
The high school wants Nash Road, maintained by Hollister, permanently closed. Meanwhile, in order to possibly acquire the property, the county constructed River Parkway to provide a vehicular route around the high school.
The high school property is split into three parcels. Two of them are within Hollister city limits and require the city to determine the property’s compatibility with its own General Plan, which Hollister is in the process of updating.
The area proposed for the regional park is 47.6 acres and located across the street from the high school. When the county acquires that property, it will also take ownership of 6.4 acres of street right-of-way for River Parkway and part of San Benito Street. The county also owns the neighboring property east of that area along San Benito Street, which is also part of the regional park plan.
The General Plan zoning change is one of several steps the county needs to take in order to develop a regional park in that area. Other steps include swapping properties with the school district in the future, changing zoning designations of the properties, and completing a land annexation by Hollister.
As part of the plan, Hollister would annex the remaining school district area within the county’s boundary, according to county documents. That area includes the new football stadium, baseball and softball fields, aquatics center, and about half of the multi-sport field to the east of the pools.
Kelly said at the Feb. 17 meeting that the River Parkway right-of-way is currently owned by the school district, but maintained by the county.
REACH San Benito Parks Foundation President and former commissioner Valerie Egland was pleased that the plan for the regional park was moving forward.
“If all this goes through it’s very exciting,” Egland said. “It has been in the plan for a long time. I look forward to a regional park someday being there.”
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