Developer to make decision soon on Strada Verde

Project in limbo after defeat of Measure N

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A conceptual plan for the Strada Verde Innovation Park shows the scope of the project. Submitted drawing

The developer of the proposed Strada Verde Innovation Park in northern San Benito County will determine if it wants to move forward with the project in the next two weeks.

Scott Fuller, a representative of Newport Pacific Land Company, made the announcement during a meeting of the San Benito County Board of Supervisors on Feb. 23, where the current status of the project was under discussion.

The future of the project is uncertain after the defeat of Measure N in the November election, with nearly 60 percent of voters rejecting it. Measure N would have created the Strada Verde Specific Plan on a 2,777-acre agricultural property in the area of Highways 25 and 101 near Gilroy by the Santa Clara County line. The plan would have created a General Plan zoning amendment for a variety of commercial and industrial uses—including an automotive testing facility—as well as a 209.5-acre park. The plan would also preserve about 561 acres of the site for farmland.

The measure’s defeat does not prohibit the developer from pursuing its application, Assistant County Counsel Joel Ellinwood said, as the ballot initiative and the normal planning processes are independent of each other.

“We have been analyzing and evaluating our options as to going forward,” Fuller said. “I know it is uncomfortable to have it hanging out there with an undetermined date.”

The status of Strada Verde was put on the board’s agenda for informational purposes by Supervisor Kollin Kosmicki, who said the voters “overwhelmingly” decided against Measure N.

“Our public digested the issue of developing there and our public made a resounding decision on what they want to do there, and that is to not develop,” he said. “I actually consider it a slap in the face to our voters to sit on this and to pretend as though we have to follow a process to go forward, when we don’t. We are allowed to deny this General Plan application now and there is no issue with that.”

Supervisor Bob Tiffany, who was a supporter of Measure N, said the property owners have a right to let the process play out if they choose to continue.

“To get in the middle of it now, I don’t think makes sense,” he said. “Eventually it will come back to us if they decide to pursue their application, and Measure N will no doubt play a significant role in our decision.”

Tiffany added that misinformation circulating during the campaign, which alleged that housing would be built on the site despite the fact that it was not included in the proposal, may have influenced voters.

Andy Hsia-Coron of Preserve Our Rural Communities, one of the groups in opposition to Measure N, said he was disappointed with some of the supervisors “repeating this ongoing myth of the lies being told.”

“It seems like when one side loses an argument in front of the public, the assumption is always that somehow the public has been fooled or lied to, which I think shows tremendous disrespect for the public,” he said.

Mia Casey of Hollister questioned Kosmicki’s motives in bringing the item to the board, saying that it appears to “cater” to Preserve Our Rural Communities’ interests.

“If the property owner chooses to move forward again, he will bring it back to the board, and that is the appropriate time for discussion, not by holding some kind of kangaroo court here today,” she said. “This effort could be viewed as harmful and even prejudicial toward the land owner.”

If the developer decides to continue, the project will be brought to the supervisors in a month, where they will consider referring it to the planning commission for a recommendation.

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