County to consider highway ‘nodes’

Zoning changes proposed along Highway 101

HIGHWAY NODE Betabel Road adjacent to Highway 101 in San Juan Bautista is one area where San Benito County officials see future commercial development. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

The San Benito County Board of Supervisors is slated to consider controversial zoning changes this month at four intersections along Highway 101, which could pave the way for future commercial development.

The supervisors are scheduled to meet at 9am Sept. 10 to consider the changes.

The four “nodes,” as they are called by planners, are located at the Betabel Road and Highway 129/Searle Road interchanges in San Juan Bautista, and the Rocks Ranch and 101 Livestock Market intersections in Aromas.

The four properties, totaling about 326 acres, would be converted to regional commercial zoning, which according to the 2035 General Plan approved in 2015, provides “areas that function as destinations for commercial activity serving the regional population.” The types of developments that would be allowed would be shopping centers, automobile stations and hotels.

Under regional commercial zoning, retail space is limited to 85,000 square feet per node, and no more than 125 hotel rooms can be built within each area.

Should the zoning changes pass muster with the supervisors, development would not be occurring anytime soon. Each node would then need approval of a master development plan, which outlines the property’s site plan and landscaping, among many other things.

Once approved, major developments that are consistent with the master plan would then have to go through another round of county approvals.

In a letter, Michelle Leonard, president/CEO of the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce, urged the supervisors to approve the proposal.

“This proposal, which is well thought out and has been years in the making through the general plan update, would help balance residential with commercial development to bring in needed jobs and tax revenue,” she wrote. “These commercial nodes could be a win-win for residents and businesses to deliver more revenue for the county to fix our roads and create more jobs close to home.”

The proposal has drawn the ire of a citizens group known as Preserve Our Rural Communities, who contend that the potential development would negatively impact the “rural character” of the area.

The group announced plans to hold a rally on the San Juan Road overpass in Aromas, near the Red Barn, on Sept. 6

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