COLUMN: Summary of the June 14 District Board Meeting

San Benito County Supervisor Kollin Kosmicki writes about recent board actions such as contracts, appointments, and residential and commercial projects.

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As District 2 County Supervisor, I am providing summaries of all regular board meetings and will post them in Benitolink. Here is the recap of the key points from the June 14 board meeting:

Minute of silence for Barrett, Jensen:

I requested a minute’s silence at the beginning of the meeting to honor two residents who recently passed away, John Barrett and Josh Jensen. Barrett was a longtime owner of McKinnon Lumber and spent many years as a volunteer and board member for the San Benito Saddle Horse Show & Rodeo. Jensen was the founder and owner of Calera Wine. He was known as an innovator in the wine industry and received many awards for his work.

Plaque for the previous chairman when the new chairman takes over:

Supervisors presented a Plaque to Supervisor Bea Gonzales for serving as Chair of the Board from June 2021 to June 2022. Supervisor Peter Hernandez took over the gavel as Chair for the remainder of the year. He delivered a speech on the unified collaboration of the board while acknowledging the responsibility of the chairman to lead meetings in a neutral manner.

Drought update and direction:

Supervisors received a presentation from the San Benito County Water District on current drought conditions and their impact on the ground, as well as plans to increase water storage to accommodate growth trends. District officials reported that due to the drought this year, there is a 0% allocation from the state and work is being done to urge local residents to conserve water. I asked what’s in the county’s “toolbox” and what kind of precedent there might be for banning traditional lawns in new developments. District officials also said they are reviewing prospects for expanding water storage facilities in the coming years to accommodate expectations that usage will increase from the current 6,800 acres/year to 12,500 acres/year by 2045.

San Justo Reservoir Closure Updated:

Regulators received an update on the closure of the San Justo Reservoir since early 2008 in connection with the Infestation with zebra mussels. I have asked the board to hold serious discussions about reopening the out-of-water recreation facility while work continues on an eradication plan. Federal officials noted how the estimated cost of eradication has escalated and that estimates, which could now exceed $7 million, need to be reassessed. I expressed frustration that less than a decade ago the estimate was $2.5 million and the agencies involved hadn’t been serious enough about it, leading to continued closure and rising costs. It’s quite disappointing that federal authorities are now proposing that the county contribute to the cost of eradication. I have underscored how the federal government should be responsible for the eradication of a federal entity – especially considering we have no idea where the source of the infestation came from – as eradication is necessary whether there is recreation there or not .

Growth Initiative Certification Accepted:

Regulators accepted certification of the initiative petition that attempted to amend the San Benito County master plan to remove commercial regional and transit hub designations and to require voter approval for future master plan changes affecting agricultural land, rangeland or rededicate rural land to other uses. Regulators will receive the results of an economic impact study in late June and are expected to send them to the November election.

Discussed priorities of the most important development projects:

At my request, the oversight authorities received a status report on pending major project applications that are expected to be submitted to the planning commission and oversight board within the next six to nine months. Staff also asked the board to provide direction on top priorities due to staffing limitations. I asked staff directly how much the upcoming growth initiative — which would force voter approval of such future efforts — was related to the priority discussion, and the planning manager said the initiative currently features in most planning discussions. Some of these projects include the Betabel Road commercial development, the 141-unit Bill and Michele Lee housing development with an option for 25 additional ADAs on Fairview Road, the John Smith Road landfill extension, Hwy 129 & Searle Road Traveler’s Station/Truckstop, and the Strada Verde Innovation Park project. During the discussion, I noted that there was a newly announced proposal for 190 additional homes in Ridgemark and asked for clarification on two other housing project applications, stressing that I would like to see the number of units and a description of the proposed developments would appear on the agenda when they go into the future. As for priorities, I noted that board members have repeatedly stated that single-family homes are not a priority and underlined that I did not want the housing projects to be prioritized with the county’s limited human resources.

Zone code update, direction:

The supervisors received a presentation and a report on the ongoing revision of the zoning code. Employees and a consultant indicated that after receiving instructions from supervisors, the Code would come back at the next meeting for possible approval. I had numerous questions and comments about the code after extensively reviewing the update, which was intended to fix deprecated language, make it more reader-friendly, and implement the 2035 General Plan, among other things. Among the issues I raised, I requested a discussion on whether the Board would further investigate the level of authority of the Planning Commission for Development Projects, while noting that in some cases the unelected Commissioners can make relatively binding decisions. I argued that the Planning Commission should be advisory only and that elected officers should be held accountable for all development decisions. Three other attendants — Gonzales, Tiffany and Dirks — said they wouldn’t even consider such a significant change. Instead, these managers agreed that staff would do more “education” about the Commission’s role at the next meeting.

Santana Ranch’s latest lots have been approved:

The regulators, in a 4-1 vote, approved the final map for the latest round of 87 lots at the Santana Ranch development on Fairview Road. I voted no on that point.

Consideration for sales tax reconciliation:

Regulators unanimously decided against a potential sales tax measure for the November 2022 election to increase the levy from 8.25%, citing current economic conditions.

Appointment of the Community Action Board:

Supervisors approved the appointment of Thressa Walker-Shaw to the Community Action Board as District #5 representative. The appointment is for a three-year term effective June 14, 2025.

EMS Agreement for Hollister Hills:

Regulators approved an agreement with the State of California Department of Parks and Recreation for the Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreational Area to fund emergency medical services and the impact of Hollister Hills service calls on the EMS system for the September 1, 2022 term by February 29, 2024, for an annual total of $149,625.

Rental of premises for public health:

Regulators approved the renewal of the third lease option with K&S Market, Inc. for public health office space at 351 Tres Pinos Rd., Suite A-202 for the period from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023 at a rate of 8,082 per month $.00.

Landfill extension contract:

Managers approved the fourth contract amendment with Lewis Engineering, which extends the contract through June 30, 2023 and adds a maximum of $243,305.00 in additional compensation (from Landfill Enterprise Funds) for a maximum total contract amount of $652,760.

Community Solutions Contract for Sexually Exploited Child Services:

Supervisors approved a $159,117 contract with Community Solutions for the period July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023. Community Solutions provides commercially sexually exploited child services to youth identified by the Agency and/or other community agencies as being at risk of commercial sexual exploitation.

Sun Street Centers Contract Renewals:

Managers approved a contract extension with Sun Street Centers for Women’s Sober Living Environment for a maximum amount of $72,000 for a period of July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023; a male sober living contract not exceeding $72,000 for the term July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023; and the required drug Medi-Cal organized perinatal and non-perinatal inpatient treatment and delivery system withdrawal management for women in an amount not exceeding $201,220 for the term July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023. There were several other contracts on behavioral health also agenda.

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