Anyone who has had to run from county office to county office as
they try to get a permit to build something in San Benito will be
happy to know that officials may put all of the county’s permitting
agencies under one roof.
Hollister – Anyone who has had to run from county office to county office as they try to get a permit to build something in San Benito will be happy to know that officials may put all of the county’s permitting agencies under one roof.

The county is considering a $1 million overhaul to transform the vacant former Hazel Hawkins Convalescent Hospital located on Southside Road into a one stop center that would house the county’s planning and building departments. It would also have room for representatives from the environmental health and public works departments and the county fire department.

Currently, the different agencies involved with the permitting process are scattered throughout the county, and many are located in cramped buildings that don’t serve the needs of customers or staff.

“Having all the agencies in one location is a means of efficiency not only for the general public, but also for staff,” said Supervisor Don Marcus, who sits on the board’s facilities/ buildings subcommittee.

Contractors like the idea of a one stop center, saying it would make the permit process easier for everyone.

“In the long run it seems that would be more efficient for (the county) and citizens,” said Jason Guerra, owner of Symmetry Design and Build in Hollister.

David Wade, a land planner who represents the landowners who want to build more than 1,000 homes on county land near Hillcrest and Sunnyslope roads, said it’s always good when the various county agencies involved in the permit process are on the same page.

“I think it does help,” he said. “Coordination and communication is an important part of the process. Anything that can be done to help that is a good idea.”

Marcus’ colleagues on the board were generally supportive of the idea when Interim Planning Director Michael Bethke gave them a report about the possibility of remodeling and converting the county-owned building into a one stop center during a recent meeting.

“This seems Like an appropriate plan to maybe have improved customer service,” said Supervisor Anthony Botelho, who also sits on the faclities/building committee.”

While Supervisors Pat Loe and Jaime De La Cruz both said they liked the idea of a one stop center, they each raised concerns about the Southside Road location being far from the city’s core.

“Would the public be better served by having it closer to town,” Loe asked.

After the meeting, De La Cruz said that, before choosing a location, he wants the county to consider spots closer to downtown so people are drawn to that area rather than away from it. One possibility is the old Fremont School across the street from the county’s administration building, he said. The former school is owned by the Hollister Redevelopment Agency.

“We need to protect local interest and the local economy at the same time,” he said. “We need to look at this from an economic perspective, too.”

Marcus said he understands the desire to pull people into downtown, but said that the location was “not a major concern” because the goal of the one stop center was too ease the permit process for customers and improve efficiency and communication of county staff – both of which, he said, are goals that can be served by the facility on Southside Road.

Board Chair Reb Monaco said he liked the idea of a one stop center, and he directed Marcus and Botelho to work with the planning department to further explore remodeling options for the building.

“I too support this venture,” he said at that time. “I agree there is a location issue, but it’s not a perfect world.”

The county estimates the cost of remodeling the building, which was vacated when Hazel Hawkins built a new convalescent facility, at between $800,000 and $1 million. The money would come from money that was divided among the state’s 58 county’s when California settled a lawsuit with major U.S. tobacco companies in 1998. If the board moves forward with the project, which would create offices for staff from the various agencies, it could be finished by late 2006, according to a county report.

Botelho said he hopes to report his and Marcus’ progress to the board by the first of the year, at which time, if the board so desires, the county might request bids for the work.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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