Despite approving a school bond measure that was expected to bring a new Gavilan College campus to San Benito County 13 years ago, locals have yet to receive that campus.
While the Briggs Building in downtown Hollister is awash with fresh faces and open minds looking to learn this new fall semester, a plot of land near the Ridgemark Golf Club and Resort known as Fairview Corners sits untouched.
Gavilan College, in partnership with Morgan Hill-based Dividend Homes, acquired Fairview Corners for $8 million years ago. The lot was purchased with funds from Measure E, a $108 million school bond measure voters approved in 2004.
While the college purchased the 80-acre portion of Fairview Corners—Dividend Homes claims 60 acres—more than a decade ago, no construction has taken place.
“The need for having a comprehensive education facility in San Benito County has been recognized for a long time,” said Jan Bernstein-Chargin, the college’s public information officer.
While purchasing the property cost the community college $8 million, they were also required to obtain incidental take permits and purchase mitigation land for the California Tiger Salamander, a federally endangered species, found at Fairview Corners.
It took several years to get the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the United States Department of Fish and Wildlife to agree on appropriate mitigation measures, according to Fred Harris, the college’s vice president of administrative services.
“We’ve completed the incidental take permit process for the state,” Harris said. “Generally speaking, the state has far more requirements than the feds do.”
Harris said the school is still working on acquiring the federal incidental take permit and estimates that to be complete in six months.
The tiger salamanders won’t be removed from the Fairview Corners parcel. Instead, their loss will be compensated by the purchase of mitigation land.
For every acre of land at Fairview Corners, Gavilan College had to purchase three acres of conservation land up at Mariposa Peak.
The school secured an option to purchase easements of up to 420 acres, but the state determined they only needed 329 acres of mitigation land.
Gavilan College’s share of the mitigation land cost is 11.3 percent or $130,119.50, which was paid into escrow on December 21, 2015. Dividend Homes picked up the remaining cost.
Addressing environmental concerns, however, is only part of the next-step process.
Dividend Homes still needs to go through their development process with the county.
“They’re finalizing the tentative development map,” Harris said. “I think it’ll be done in about a month. Then their final map will be done in about a year. Once map approvals are done with the county and we have all the requirements for mitigation in line, then they’ll start churning dirt.”
If all goes according to plan, groundbreaking for Fairview Corners could be expected at the end of 2018.
However, a college campus or education center at that corner plot is still a pipe dream as funding for its construction is close to non-existent since all Measure E funds have been spent.
Gavilan College recently conducted a telephone survey to see if residents in the college district would be amenable to a new school bond at next year’s general election.
Survey results are expected to be announced at the Gavilan College Board of Trustees meeting on October 10.