A judge has ordered San Benito County to make changes to the ballot language for Measure N, but not all the revisions that were demanded by a lawsuit are required.

Hollister resident Frank Barragan, the chair of the group Concerned Citizens of San Benito County, filed the lawsuit with the California Superior Court on Aug. 27.

Measure N, if approved by voters in November, would create a master plan for the 2,777-acre Strada Verde Innovation Park in northern San Benito County. The lawsuit claims that while the question states the initiative will preserve more than 561 acres of agricultural land, it does not mention that it will rezone more than 2,000 acres of agricultural land to permit a wide variety of development uses.

Among other things, the lawsuit requested the words “preservation of 561.7 acres exclusively for agriculture” be removed, while adding “Schools, Churches, Restaurants, Bars, Museums” as some of the various uses allowed. Barragan’s lawsuit claimed that the language appears to “promote” the project, rather than using a neutral description of the proposal.

San Benito County Superior Court Judge Omar Rodriguez’s Sept. 2 ruling requires San Benito County to add the words “zoning” and “of agricultural land” in the ballot language, but not the other changes suggested by the lawsuit.

The ballot question will read as follows:

“Shall an initiative enacting the ‘Strada Verde Innovation Park Specific Plan,’ and making County General Plan and Zoning Code Amendments, for approximately 2,777 acres of agricultural land in northwest San Benito County, allowing various uses (including Research/Development, Automotive Testing/Tracks, Distribution, Offices, Business/Professional Services Commercial, Light Industrial, Hospitality, Retail, and Public/Private Services) and requiring the creation of a 209.5 acre Pajaro River Park and preservation of 561.7 acres exclusively for agriculture be adopted?”

A memorandum filed Aug. 31 with the court by the County Counsel’s office stated that the lawsuit’s claims of false information in the question are “nothing short of absurd.”

“The facts are fully and fairly presented for the voting public and will further robust debate for the voters to consider in deciding to vote for or against Measure N in the November 3 general election ballot,” the memorandum stated. “Petitioner seeks revision of the question in the misplaced attempt to persuade the voters to support his own loudly and frequently stated opposition to Measure N.”

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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