SJB residents reject racetrack

Reps. behind Formula One proposal skip meeting

San Juan Bautista residents crowded city hall to speak out against a proposed Formula One Grand Prix racetrack at a Tuesday meeting of the city planning commission.

The proposal, Motor & Technology Center of Excellence, includes a raceway, convention center, eateries, luxury condominiums and hotel, in addition to high-end shops and boutiques.

Representatives from WY2M, Inc., the Los Gatos-based company behind the $300 million proposal, were unable to make the meeting, city staff said.

Before opening the meeting to public comment, commission chairman John Hopper said there was no formal application to consider.

“They brought this to the community, the commission, and the city to tell us about their thoughts and ideas so we could weigh in on them,” Hopper told the packed room. “It’s very important that we have your input.”

Out of the 15 people who spoke during public comment, only three were optimistic about the ambitious project proposed for a 550-acre rural parcel with open grassland, some heavily wooded areas and two lakes.

“I’m strongly opposed to this project for all the pretty obvious reasons,” said San Juan Bautista resident Jim Ostdick. “The enormous carbon footprint it would cause on our county, the noise, traffic, the impact on water and sewer. To me those are no-brainers.”

Resident Amy Covington, who lives near the proposed project site by Lausen Drive, was opposed to the racetrack based on the noise level alone.

Bill Lipo, a Monterey resident who said he had a business in San Juan Bautista for several years, encouraged others to see the project as an opportunity.

“Formula One racing is a world-renowned sport,” Lipo said. “This is an opportunity to address your water system and sewer system. I hope the city would ask the developer to include a substantial percentage of affordable housing. This is an opportunity where you can leverage these things.”

Maria Madrigal, a San Juan Bautista resident, shared her experience growing up by the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Salinas.

“Spreckels is more than five to six miles away from Laguna Seca,” Madrigal said. “You could hear the echo bouncing from the hills.”

She said she could hear the racetrack every weekend.

“If I was that many miles away from the racetrack, this is just across the street. We’re going to hear it. They’re going to hear it in Hollister, they’re going to hear it in Prunedale, they’re going to hear it in Aromas and possibly Gilroy and Morgan Hill.”

San Benito County Supervisor Anthony Botelho voiced his opposition to the project.

“We just got done with the county general plan revision a couple years ago,” Botelho said. “One of our great concerns was maintaining the rural character of the entrance to the town’s historic cultural center. This is contrary to the general plan.”

Botelho said the project was too big and he couldn’t see how the city would service it.

“I certainly hope the applicants take a hard look at the testimony tonight and make the best decision. For the record, I’m absolutely against this project in this location.”

After public comment and discussion amongst the commission members, Hopper directed staff to send the applicants a response letter outlining the concerns raised at the meeting.

“Should the applicant want to come forward with an application, then we’ll weigh it on its merits,” Hopper said. “In my opinion, I don’t think we should spend any more of our time or the public’s time hearing about this project. I think we’ve heard the concerns. So let them bring forward a proposal, should they elect to do that.”

Commissioners Darlene Boyd and Andy Moore voted with Hopper to send a response letter. Commissioners Scott Freels and Ernest Franco were absent.

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