The El Rancho San Benito proposal from DMB ended in 2009.

It was far too premature of Supervisor Anthony Botelho to wholly dismiss a housing project at El Rancho San Benito before a prospective proposal even hits the table and before a shred of detail is revealed to the public.

His declaration at a recent county board meeting disclosed the previously quiet talks about a revived development proposal. More important, it reduced any perceived objectivity Botelho may have held in the public’s eye toward a development at El Rancho San Benito.  

Botelho last month revealed there is renewed interest in possibly building a planned community there similar in concept to the prior DMB proposal for the same site off Highway 25 near the Santa Clara County border.

That proximity to Gilroy is at the core of Botelho’s opposition, as it was for many others during the last round of debates over DMB’s proposal for a 6,800-unit development. That most recent consideration for a master plan community there ended in 2009 at the height of the recession when DMB called it quits on the project and left town.

In general, Botelho’s stated concern about location is reasonable. As the argument goes, most of the new residents would do their shopping and working outside of San Benito County – just like the current majority of residents – and this community would continue on its cycle of economic decline.

“Do we want to be a continuation of Gilroy as a community?” he said in an interview with the Free Lance.

Of course, it was a rhetorical question. And of course we don’t want to become an extension of Gilroy. At the same time, though, do we want Gilroy – and its leakage-sucking vacuum – to dictate the county’s every move as leaders plan for the long term? It is one factor, but shouldn’t be an overriding consideration because such an outlook would greatly limit the county’s planning options.

Especially in light of San Benito County’s continually dire economy, supervisors must be open-minded about any major development proposals such as one at El Rancho San Benito. Instead, Botelho is shutting out any prospect of development on the site, and solely due to geography.

From a political perspective, it is akin to nixing any and all development potential within a certain distance of the Santa Clara County border – which, if stated openly, would be an absurd, unfair and largely spurned outlook. Despite Botelho denying he is motivated by nearby San Juan’s stringent anti-growth culture, his constituency likely played a major role in his proclamation against a development at El Rancho.  

The problem for Botelho isn’t his gut view about geography, though. Botelho’s problem is that he is a county supervisor and it is his responsibility to give reasonable consideration, to offer his utmost objectivity, with every project before the board. In this case, a project doesn’t even exist yet.

His decision to take a stand at the outset proves that Botelho has lost any perceived sense of objectivity with the prospective development going forward. If he disagrees with certain details in a proposal – such as drainage matters or affordable housing allocations – how can the public take him seriously and put aside his broad-sweeping, immediate opposition?

By jumping the gun and shunning the process, Botelho has greatly diminished his own authority – or level of influence – on the matter. Other supervisors, meanwhile, should learn from his mistake and maintain an open mind about all major development possibilities. 

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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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