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The San Benito County Board of Supervisors approved a commercial zoning change for the Betabel property along Highway 101 in San Juan Bautista on April 7.

The board voted 4-1, with Supervisor Jaime De la Cruz dissenting.

Betabel property owner Thomas John McDowell and Victoria McDowell Charitable Remainder Unitrust submitted an application to the county to convert 29 acres of the land to a commercial zoning designation, known as “C-1.”

Such a zoning designation is similar to the proposed “C-3” zoning for the property and others along Highway 101 that was defeated by voters in the March 3 election. The C-1 zoning classification shares many similarities with the C-3 zoning in terms of building standards and permitted uses. However, it is less restrictive in other areas, such as landscaping, theme and tourism.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting was live-streamed on a platform known as Zoom, where participants could speak through their devices during the public comment period. The public could also phone in to the meeting.

De la Cruz said due to the shelter-in-place order and social distancing protocols, it would be difficult for opponents to gather signatures for a referendum if they chose to do so. According to California elections law, proponents of a referendum have 30 days once an ordinance is adopted to gather the required number of signatures.

Assistant County Counsel Joel Ellinwood said it is currently unknown if the state has changed the process during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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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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