Housing / Land Use

Supervisors rezone Betabel node off Hwy 101 to ag rangeland

Poised to place a C-1 commercial thoroughfare on 29 acres, the board holds off until April 7.
Photo by Robert Eliason.
Photo by Robert Eliason.

The San Benito County Board of Supervisors re-established agriculture rangeland (AR) district zoning on 29 acres of the Highway 101 node at Betabel Road at its March 24 meeting, after it had been rezoned to commercial regional (C-3) on Sept. 24.

Though the board was set to adopt a commercial thoroughfare (C-1) zoning at the meeting, supervisors voted 4-1 to continue the item to April 7. Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz was the only member to vote no on both items. 

The latest action follows voters’ opposition to Measure K in the March 3 primary election. The measure’s defeat repealed the county’s ordinance 991, which set commercial guidelines for four properties—Betabel, SR129/Searle Road, Rocks Ranch and Livestock 101—along Highway 101.

County planner Taven Brown said the applicant, the Thomas John McDowell and Victoria McDowell Charitable Remainder Unitrust, was requesting to restore the previous designation—agriculture rangeland—and apply a C-1 overlay on 29 acres that would allow the applicant to move forward with a project. The property’s remaining 85 acres would remain agriculture rangeland-floodplain following the adoption of the C-1 overlay.

Ordinance 991 did not change zoning, Brown said. Rather it was the set of regulations that governed any C-3 zone, which Supervisor Anthony Botelho has called more restrictive than C-1. Brown clarified that the board had rezoned the four properties through a series of ordinances that included 991. As it stood following the primary election, the properties are labeled C-3, but don’t have any regulations attached to them.

In response to Botelho’s comment that the Betabel property is referred to as “zombie land” because it’s unzoned, Brown said when there are inconsistencies, the county General Plan’s designation—commercial regional—is used. 

Prior to Brown’s presentation, Supervisors Jim Gillio and Mark Medina voiced concern over the timing of approving the C-1 overlay amid the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order, though they made it clear they supported the project overall. They said residents might have problems giving their input as the meeting was held through teleconference. Gillio requested that the board revisit the item on April 21. 

De La Cruz said he agreed with the concerns and would not support the decision to approve a C-1 overlay at this time. 

“If you want this to pass, move it to the next meeting to allow more public input, but if you were to vote on it today I would vote definitely no,” De La Cruz said. 

Supervisors Botelho and Peter Hernandez disagreed and wanted to move forward with placing the C-1 overlay because they said it was essential to protect San Benito County from the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak. 

“We are going into a recession. There is nobody that will dispute that,” Botelho said. “Anything that we could do to protect our local economy, action needs to be done yesterday. I think we all claim to be fans of economic development. By delaying this one more time we risk losing this project.”

Hernandez agreed with Botelho and added that though people think entry-level jobs aren’t important, business owners know they serve an important role in the community. Hernandez co-owns Ohana Shave Ice in Hollister.

“The ones that are going to be in the most desperate need are going to be the ones hardest hit,” Hernandez said. “It’s going to be the younger folks. It’s going to be the lower economic group that are struggling financially.”

In his C-1 zoning brief, Brown said the designation has three levels of approval—site plan review, administrative level permits and use permits. He also clarified that all C-1 development projects are required to go through the San Benito County Planning Commission for vetting, which includes public involvement and the California Environmental Quality Act. The Planning Commission approved the C-1 overlay for Betabel on Nov. 20.

During the presentation, Medina emphasized that there is no residential component in the C-1 regulations and that there would be no infrastructure costs to the county.

During the discussion where Medina made those points, Deputy County Counsel Joel Ellingwood said that any conditions the county wanted the developer to abide by—such as not allowing water parks or alligator ponds and funding additional services for fire and the Sheriff’s Office—would be determined through the impact fee and conditional use permit process. 

 

 

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Other related BenitoLink articles:

https://benitolink.com/sbc-planners-approve-alternate-zoning-for-hwy-101-node/

 

 

BenitoLink is a nonprofit news website that reports on San Benito County. Our team works around the clock to provide accurate information to our readers. It is expensive to produce local news and community support is what keeps the news flowing. Please consider supporting BenitoLink, San Benito County’s news.

 

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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.