Supes’ Call Could Delay Hotel for Years

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Controversial plans to build a 44-unit hotel in Tres Pinos
– hashed out at Planning Commission meetings throughout the
summer – could be headed for a lengthy and expensive delay.
Hollister – Controversial plans to build a 44-unit hotel in Tres Pinos – hashed out at Planning Commission meetings throughout the summer – could be headed for a lengthy and expensive delay.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday put off its vote on a zoning change that the project needs to move ahead. But three supervisors forming a majority said they want the developer to complete an environmental impact report before final approval.

“An EIR, to me, would answer so many of the questions and concerns,” said Board Chairman Don Marcus.

County planners plan to examine the details of requiring an EIR and bring back a report Oct. 23.

County Planning Director Art Henriques said it’s hard to know how long preparing an EIR could delay the process, particularly since supervisors could direct the developers to prepare either a full EIR or one narrowly focused on a few specific elements.

The proposal before supervisors Tuesday required the developers and the county to complete the hotel’s commercial district review – which examines whether project plans fit existing zoning – within a year.

“(One year) almost certainly would not be enough time for an EIR,” said Deputy County Counsel Shirley Murphy.

As for the cost, Henriques said it could be “quite a bit.”

“An EIR can run $50,000 or $100,000 or more,” he said.

But Marcus, along with supervisors Anthony Botelho and Pat Loe, said that even if it’s expensive, further study is necessary. Loe said a commercial district review is so vaguely defined in the county code that it “doesn’t give us much.”

Marcus added that as county leaders, the supervisors need to take “every precaution.”

Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz, however, said he’s opposed to an EIR. Noting that he ran for office on a platform touting economic development, De La Cruz said the hotel would be “one baby step that will lead us to a new San Benito County.”

In its report, the Planning Department stated that all significant environmental impacts could be mitigated. But attorney Jim Pleyte, who said he represents 93 Tres Pinos residents, declared that there are “so many unanswered questions” that the supervisors should reject the zoning change or require a full EIR.

For one thing, Pleyte said, an extra 11 parking spaces for the 2,700-square-foot banquet hall leaves a “significant shortfall,” which will cause drivers to park on the surrounding residential streets.

“The project would significantly alter the existing character of the rural village of Tres Pinos,” Pleyte said.

Henriques said there’s often an overlap between hotel guests and people using banquet facilities, and he noted how the hotel has six more parking spaces than required by the county.

Matthew Thompson, an architect working on the hotel, emphasized that supervisors were just looking at a zoning change, not the project proposal. When the developers submit their final plans, Thompson said they’ll offer “hard data” about the project’s impact.

The hotel has become a hot issue among some locals. As Marcus said, it has “divided a community.” Supervisor Reb Monaco said that in his recent reelection campaign, at least one voter denounced him for failing to take a stand on the hotel.

But Monaco came out in favor of the hotel Tuesday, and he was the first supervisor to state his position.

Turning to the other supervisors, Monaco said, “I said it. I bit the bullet. Now it’s the rest of your turns.”

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