City measure would cap growth

If Measure U is passed by Hollister voters Nov. 5, residents
would have sole power over the city’s growth management planning
for the future.
If Measure U is passed by Hollister voters Nov. 5, residents would have sole power over the city’s growth management planning for the future.

If the measure fails, the Growth Management Program adopted by the city in 2001 would stay in effect.

The two plans are similar in context, City Manager George Lewis said. But under the current plan, to make alterations to the Housing Element of the General Plan, the City Council takes the vote.

Measure U would maintain the current residential growth limit of 244 new units per year, including a minimum of 40 units in the “low” or “very low” income categories.

The definitions of “low” and “very low” income were established by the United States Housing Act of 1937. Low-income family income does not exceed 80 percent of the average income of the city and very-low-income families do not exceed 50 percent of that figure.

City Attorney Elaine Cass reiterated Lewis’ sentiment about the similarity of the plans.

“It reflects what has been on the books since April of 2001,” Cass said.

WATCHDOG, the boisterous citizens organization founded by Hollister resident J.J. Vogel, came up with the ordinance to revise the General Plan in December 2000 by collecting signatures from 10 percent of the population.

Measure U also includes a clause regarding the cease-and-desist order and the city’s new wastewater treatment plant. The cease and desist order stems from the sewage spill May 4 that sent 15 million gallons of treated sewage into the San Benito River bed. The state-issued moratorium already prohibits new building permits until Oct. 15, 2005, which is also the scheduled completion date of the new $18.5 million wastewater treatment plant.

If passed, Measure U would remain in effect five years after the actual completion of the plant. But if the city does not complete construction of the plant by June 30, 2007, a city attorney’s impartial analysis of the measure says “the ordinance shall automatically terminate on June 30, 2012.”

The analysis also states, “Approval of this measure will have no impact on current development restrictions in the City of Hollister.”

The city, specifically Cass, felt some sections of Vogel’s original proposal were not satisfactory. So city officials took Watchdog to court in November 2001.

“We believe that in the way it was drafted, it could not be implemented into law,” Cass said in April.

But the city made appropriate corrections. In one, the city successfully eliminated a portion of WATCHDOG’s ordinance that unlawfully addressed overcrowded schools, along with other questionable language, Lewis said.

California law states that overcrowded schools cannot be used as justification for growth limits.

Cass brought the measure back to the Council for a vote on the Nov. 5 election. Council passed the ordinance to place the measure on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Councilmember Tony Bruscia said the Council’s primary concern was making the measure legal. He said Council does not officially sponsor Measure U but would be satisfied with the voters’ choice, either way.

“It that’s what the city wants, then that’s fine,” Bruscia said.

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