TriCal, Inc. and the developer of the Strada Verde Innovation Park have reached a “comprehensive safety agreement” that aims to alleviate concerns about the proximity of more commercial activity near a chemical storage facility off Highway 25.
The agreement comes as a group of local residents is attempting to pass an initiative that would impose a 3.5-mile no-build buffer zone around the TriCal facility located at 8770 Bolsa Road. It also follows a report commissioned by the county in 2020 that recommended Strada Verde be built at least 3.5 miles away from the TriCal facility due to the potential hazards from an accidental spill.
TriCal has operated the chemical storage and mixing facility in Hollister since 1961, with no blemishes on its safety record, according to authorities.
“Our agreement with TriCal addresses all of the issues raised in previous studies regarding operations at the TriCal facility and ensures that if the SVIP project goes forward, it will help the community achieve an extremely high level of safety associated with the TriCal facility,” SVIP President John Patterson stated in the agreement.
The SVIP project is proposed by developer Newport Pacific Land Co. plans for the 2,777-acre project near the intersection of Highways 101 and 25 include a technology testing grounds, research park, ecommerce uses, commercial sites, agriculture, a greenway, river preserve as well as supporting infrastructure, water storage and right-of-way.
The agreement with TriCal, drafted and released to the public on June 23, states that if San Benito County officials approve the SVIP project, TriCal will make “good faith best efforts” to relocate its Bolsa Road chemical storage and formulation uses to a location outside the county within 18 months. This relocation would be funded entirely by SVIP, the agreement states.
“There will be no cost to the county, its citizens or its taxpayers,” says the agreement.
The agreement also includes additional safety measures at the TriCal facility “beyond what is currently required;” and additional measures that the county may require at the TriCal site as part of its consideration of the SVIP project.
In the 2020 election, voters rejected a measure for the Strada Verde Specific Plan that would have rezoned the SVIP site for its proposed uses. The developer is now seeking approval through the county’s normal planning process, and the project is currently undergoing an environmental study.
TriCal plans to maintain both its Hollister site and office property on Arroyo Circle in Gilroy, according to a company spokesperson.
“Since the part of the agreement that includes TriCal relocating its bulk storage and filling operations is dependent upon the Strada Verde project being approved, the company has not yet determined possible sites where it would move its bulk storage and operations,” Jena Francis, Director of Marketing and PR for TriCal, said in an email.
TriCal distributes agricultural fumigants such as chloropicrin and methyl bromide throughout the nation. The Hollister facility has consistently operated in compliance with no violations, according to five-year data by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
The county’s report in 2020, conducted by EMC Planning Group, found that an unexpected release of chemicals in the air from TriCal—whether by system failure, human error, act of terrorism or other cause—could cause a hazardous zone of roughly six miles surrounding the facility. According to the report, that zone extends into the southwestern portion of Gilroy and the northern tip of Hollister.
On June 28, a group of San Benito County residents submitted a petition for an initiative to the county elections office to establish a “health and safety buffer zone” around TriCal and other sensitive facilities.
Former San Benito County Supervisor Anthony Botelho, now working on community outreach for the SVIP project, said the recent agreement should remove the need for a buffer zone.
“TriCal has a great safety record, and we think this initiative is not needed,” Botelho said. “There is no record that such a thing should exist.”