The always contentious issue of growth in San Benito County has prompted Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez and Supervisor Mark Medina to jointly host a community forum on growth May 1, at The Vault in Hollister at 7 pm.
“There are a lot of misunderstandings out there about where we are with growth, and we want to educate the community about what is happening,” Medina said.
For many in San Benito County, the prospect of further development raised enough ire to motivate many to send angry emails to their county and city officials. The common concern of many citizens helped to spark a lively debate at the Board of Supervisors on April 17, where the supervisors briefly discussed a moratorium to halt new construction.
“We need to make sure that growth is manageable, that it’s a win for the county and the city,” Medina said. “We want to make sure that these agreements make us whole, and that they build things that help the community.”
Public irritation over continued residential expansion has been common over the years, especially in San Benito County and Gilroy. As the area’s big tech hitters Google and Apple continue to gobble up available land, developers boxed out by a lack of housing inventory often look to San Benito County for places to build. Buying land here is cheaper, and the market for single-family homes remains strong, as the Bay Area’s economy continues to hum along.
“There’s a lot of confusion about what is happening, even among elected officials,” Valazquez said. “Without knowing exactly what’s going on, we can’t just keep going down this path saying it will be OK. We need to know how we’re going to pay the bills, how the growth will affect the schools and our roads.”
The business community also has a high stake in how fast, or slow, the area’s population grows. Growth that many residents may see as too rapid, may not be quick enough for businesses who are looking for new markets.
“When business owners see new roofs going up they say, ‘Good, more clients mean more customers,'” said Pinnacle Strategy President, and former Hollister mayor Victor Gomez. “When a business hears ‘slow growth,’ the first thing they think is that they’re never coming here.”
“I always say when we involve the public early and we listen, the result is a success,” Velazquez said. “When we ignore them and say that we know better, it’s a failure.