Housing / Land Use

Strada Verde impact study calls for 3.5-mile buffer zone

Report says the location of the proposed autonomous vehicle testing facility is too close to a distributor of agriculture fumigants.

An impact study on the Strada Verde Innovation Park concludes the proposed autonomous vehicle testing facility has land use designations not suitable to the property because of its proximity to an agricultural fumigant distributor. The study recommends a 3.5-mile buffer zone between the two operations, and Strada Verde’s proposed location lies entirely within the buffer zone.

San Benito County has not yet released the full study, and the county’s Board of Supervisors is set to discuss it at its Aug. 4 meeting. On July 24, the county released an executive summary.

TriCal, Inc., located at 8770 Bolsa Road off Highway 25, is a distributor and applicator of soil conditioning and agriculture fumigants. According to its website, it was founded in 1961 by Richard Stokan, Jerry Hanes and Robert McCaslin.

The Strada Verde project, located near Highways 25 and 101 along the Pajaro River, encompasses 2,777 acres of land and proposes open land with a 2.4-mile trail; a business center with a hotel, retail shops and restaurants; and an automotive technology and research center with automobile testing tracks.

The study, prepared by EMC Group for San Benito County, explores 15 case scenarios involving three chemical leaks; chloropicrin, 1,3-DCP and methylbromide. The scenarios include airborne toxics, fires and explosions.

“Any buffer zone less than 3.5 miles woud place human life in jeopardy because multiple release scenarios result in unacceptably high concentrations of hazardous chemicals within 3.5 miles of the TriCal site,” the report concludes.

Kollin Kosmicki, supervisorial candidate for District 2 where Strada Verde is proposed, said he released the report on July 21 because he was concerned the public would receive a redacted version after TriCal reviews it and submits its input. Kosmicki said he was told by several members of the public that they had access to it, and after reviewing it himself, decided to publish it on his campaign website.

“It’s a public record and the county Board of Supervisors have already reviewed it. The public should be allowed to review it at that point as well,” he said.

Kosmicki said he acknowledges the potential benefits to the local economy from the Strada Verde project, including jobs, but he also wants the negative impacts to be discussed.

“I’m a transparency guy,” he said. “And so a public record is out there. No one is releasing it. I felt it was time somebody did that, I had it so I did so.”

Current District 2 Supervisor Anthony Botelho, who is not seeking reelection in November, said the study is incomplete because it’s in the process of being peer reviewed by TriCal. He said it should not have been published or even shared with the supervisors until it was completed. Supervisors were given a copy of the study last week.

Botelho said he expects a lot of changes to the report following TriCal’s review.

“As of right now I do not believe the operation at TriCal is as hazardous as the report reflects, that concluded that you need a 3.5-mile buffer zone,” Botelho said.

Botelho also said he had a lot of questions regarding the content of the study, such as whether people or other life forms could ever be in the buffer zone, or if there were other land uses that are “risk-tolerable.”

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Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. A San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily.