The Strada Verde Innovation Park initiative this week forwarded its petition signatures to the San Benito County Elections Department for verification. The initiative, calling for development of an autonomous vehicle research and testing facility on 2,700 acres in the northwest corner of the county, was filed on May 26 and will require 2009 validated signatures of registered San Benito County voters in order to advance.
It took the project’s proponents 10 days to obtain approximately 3,205 signatures.
Presuming that the minimum number of validated signatures will be reached, the San Benito County Board of Supervisors will either pass the initiative or leave it to voters to decide in the Nov. 3 election.
Strada Verde spokesman Scott Fuller, a developer and member of the San Benito County Business Council, said the speed with which the signatures were obtained is a testament to the need for this kind of project in the county.
“It speaks to the fact that San Benito County residents were very encouraged about the prospect of a project that is all jobs and no houses,” Fuller said. “I think that really made voters sit up and take notice and sign the petition. We will be submitting to the Board of Supervisors and we do not anticipate any obstacles in getting their approval.”
Fuller is hoping the verification process will take no more than a couple of weeks.
The Strada Verde Innovation Park is a 2,777-acre project proposed by developer Newport Pacific Land Company LLC that would bring an autonomous car testing and research facility to San Benito County. The project promises an initial 18,000 construction jobs over the next 10 years; 5,500 permanent full-time jobs; and an estimated $12 million a year in tax revenue for the county.
The project, located on the old Floriana Ranch property, also includes a 209-acre public park along the Pajaro River and 562 acres of agricultural land located on the floodplain. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the remaining 2,000 acres, which will comprise the Innovation Park, has not been used as productive farmland for over 40 years.
“I think that since Measure K, COVID-19 has created a greater need for economic development and for jobs in San Benito County,” Fuller said. “The jobs/housing imbalance is even more critical to address. The county is going to be facing dramatic shortfalls in revenue and employment and this addresses both.”
Bob Tiffany, President of the San Benito County Business Council, agrees with Fuller.
“Our economy has started to slide into a recession and thousands of our neighbors have lost their jobs, “Tiffany wrote. “I think voters recognize that now—more than ever—we need a project like SVIP that brings unprecedented job growth and economic opportunity to San Benito County.”
In the same news release, Hollister business owner Donna Haynes is quoted as saying “Strada Verde will be 100% privately-funded. It will not rely on any taxpayer money or government subsidy. A project like this won’t come around again; we get 20,000 jobs, tens of millions in private funding for our roads, schools and firefighters, and 200 acres of parkland, without any tax increase.”
Deputy County Clerk Francisco Diaz with the county election office said the process of verifying the signatures began July 1, as all paperwork submitted by the public to the office is quarantined for a day to halt the spread of COVID-19. He also said that estimates given by those behind initiatives tend to be accurate, suggesting that 3,205 is an accurate number of the signatures that were submitted.
If the Board of Supervisors does not adopt the initiative and defers the issue to voters, it will appear on the ballot in the Nov. 3 election.
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