General plan special study areas up for discussion

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The areas outlined in yellow are special study areas included in the draft general plan update. Supervisors are planning a special meeting to discuss whether the designation should be removed from the general plan.

San Benito County’s general plan update could take up to two years to complete, despite estimates earlier this year that it might be completed this fall.
Interim planning director Byron Turner asked supervisors for approval to send out a request for proposals to complete the work on the general plan, which included the following provisions:
1. Revise the general plan. Review prior County Board of Supervisors policy direction and revise the General Plan consistent with that direction.
2. Prepare final EIR. Revise the draft EIR consistent with the updates to the project and as necessary to respond to prior public comments on the existing draft EIR taking into consideration the work to date of previous consultants, its subcontractors and County staff.
3. Provide county staff support. Assist county staff in preparing planning commission and board resolutions, including CEQA findings of fact and statement of overriding considerations.
4. Assist county staff at public hearings. Be available to attend at least two planning commission meetings and at least two board meetings.
Turner said he had talked with a few consultants informally about the time and cost to complete the tasks associated with the general plan update. The informal estimates were up to two years at a cost of $200,000. He said the consultant who had originally worked on the general plan also expressed an interest in working out a deal with the county to complete the work.
Supervisors had previously contracted with Mintier Harnish to conduct work on the general plan, but supervisors became increasingly frustrated with delays and additional charges from the consultant. In February, Gary Armstrong who was then the planning director said the cost of the general plan was coming in at $1,197,657, more than $382,000 over the amount originally approved for the update in 2009.
At the time, supervisors approved an amendment of an additional $67,000 (included in the total plan cost above) for Mintier Harnish to cover the cost of public comment responses and other additional costs, with a contract that the contractor would not submit additional charges to the county. At the time, planning staff said they would be helping with public comments and any outstanding work to be completed.
At Tuesday’s meeting, supervisors expressed a desire to delay a decision on sending out RFPs until they have a time to discuss the special study areas included in the draft plan. They also expressed a desire to exclude Mintier and Harnish from submitting a bid.
“My perspective is that our first consultant failed to provide services they said they would on schedule,” said Supervisor Anthony Botelho.
Botelho said he was also concerned about the inclusion in the general plan of special study areas, or new community study areas. The draft of the general plan highlights four areas in the county for future growth.
“Is that something that makes sense?” he asked. “It puts an unnecessary bull’s eye on everything. It’s obvious we have not done the environmental work.”
Botelho said he was concerned the special study areas would preclude other parts of the county from development or it might be difficult to deny a proposed development within the study area.
Supervisor Robert Rivas said he had concerns about the study areas because they did not reflect the concerns of the general plan advisory committee and also because they could lead to sprawl in the county development.
Supervisor Margie Barrios said she was supportive of the special study areas.
“It says we are open for business,” she said.
Supervisor Jerry Muenzer suggested the supervisors call a special meeting to which members of the general plan advisory committee and the public could be invited to discuss the special study areas before moving on with an RFP.
While Barrios suggested moving ahead with the RFP and asking consultants if the study areas could be an issue in the future, Muenzer again broached the idea of a special meeting.
Supervisors agreed to delay sending out the RFP in order to schedule a special meeting to discuss the study areas. The date and time of the meeting is to be announced.

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