El Rancho owners ‘testing waters’ for possible development - Free Lance News : Local Politics

El Rancho owners ‘testing waters’ for possible development

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Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 1:48 pm

There is renewed interest from property owners and a developer to possibly build thousands of homes on the El Rancho San Benito land where DMB proposed the 6,800-unit community before departing nearly three years ago.

Members of the Floriani family – who own about 2,700 acres of the El Rancho property – initiated talks with supervisors and staff officials this month to gauge prospects for a planned community there.

El Rancho San Benito is located to the northwest of Hollister off Highway 25 near the Santa Clara County border. Its geography was at the core of debate under the DMB proposal, dialogue focused on whether this county would gain economic benefits or if the new community’s residents would do most of their shopping and working in other communities.

DMB withdrew its application for a project at El Rancho San Benito in 2009, nearly a decade after planning and lobbying efforts started. Roberto Floriani, who passed away in recent years, was the owner of the property. His family members met with some supervisors and others, including Planning Director Gary Armstrong on Feb. 13, in “testing the waters” over a possible project, the planning official said.

Armstrong said DMB representatives told him the company is not involved. He understood that a third-party developer was in the mix, but left it to supervisors to confirm the information.

Although one supervisor said he understood the prospective size to range from between 6,000 and 10,000 homes, Armstrong said the family members did not discuss any such figures with him.

“They really didn’t,” Armstrong said. “Their questions were, should we move forward at all with something?”

DMB’s proposal was for just under 7,000 homes, while the Floriani family – which has owned the land since the late 1970s – pursued a 10,000-unit development there in 1988, an effort that ended two years later.

Supervisor Anthony Botelho, whose district includes the El Rancho property, was among the officials who met with Floriani family members. Those family members could not be reached immediately before press time.

Botelho, who was told the 6,000 to 10,000 range, spoke in vague terms but openly opposed prospects for an El Rancho San Benito development at the board of supervisors meeting last week.

Other than size, Botelho said the development interests did not discuss any other details of the master plan community.

Botelho prefers that new development occur closer to Hollister – so governments can provide services – and said he supports the Del Webb proposal for about 1,000 homes at San Juan Oaks Golf Club. He fears that most of the new residents in an El Rancho community would tend to work out of county and do their shopping out of county as well.

“Do we want to be a continuation of Gilroy as a community?” Botelho said in an interview with the Free Lance. “Is that what people living in Hollister or San Juan Bautista really want?"

Supervisor Margie Barrios received a call from Floriani representatives, but said the message with a phone number wasn’t clear and so she could not call back. She said she would meet with them once the two sides touch base.

For Barrios, she does not want to see a proposal with just homes. Barrios would want “something sustainable,” she said.

“If they have a mixed-use community, where they do have maybe some restaurants, maybe some shops, maybe some small retail, that would be beneficial to us,” she said.

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  • Marty_Richman posted at 4:38 pm on Wed, Feb 27, 2013.

    Marty_Richman Posts: 1148

    The devil will be in the details, but future development has to be planned communities be they small ones or large ones. These types of communities have enormous advantages because the can supply mixed types of housing and economic vitality. Everyday we see the folly of previous unplanned development where something is just plopped down in an available space and then 30-years later it's just a mess.

    If the county government is going spend a million dollars to write the General Plan that embraces a large increase in the county population - as they did - they they need to designate locations that are viable for that development. If they designate places that are viable, then they have to make accommodation for it to happen, otherwise they are just playing politics, stalling growth and gerrymandering the county districts.

    Rte 101, is the natural north-south economic corridor in the region and since our current county commuters bring in over $700 million a year in earnings - most of it using this corridor - it's only natural that development for working people and economic opportunity take place where there is easy access to this artery. Retirement communities can be anywhere because the residents do not have to travel every morning, but unless the choke hold on Rte 156 is released, there will be little development deep into the county. As the old saying goes - "you can't get there from here."

    Time for the no-growthers to wake up and smell the flowers - unless they like being an economic backwater with a large poverty-stricken population. Of course they are the first to complain that we cannot afford the services we need while they barricade the doors against every new opportunity.

    Per the U.S. Department of Commerce -

    1996 - "In 1996 San Benito had a per capita personal income (PCPI) of $22,886. This PCPI ranked 21st in the state and was 89 percent of the state average, $25,788, and 94 percent of the national average, $24,442.

    2011 - "In 2011 San Benito had a per capita personal income (PCPI) of $35,029. This PCPI ranked 36th in the state and was 80 percent of the state average, $43,647, and 84 percent of the national average, $41,560."

    Per capita personal income in San Benito County has dropped from 21st to 36th in California counties, we went from 89 percent of the state average to 80 percent, we went from 94 percent of the national average to only 84 percent of the national average. Folks, a 10 percent drop in per capita personal income compared to the rest of the state and nation is huge.

    p.s. I have no direct or indirect economic interest in any local development.

    Marty Richman

  • Hometown Girl posted at 4:05 pm on Wed, Feb 27, 2013.

    Hometown Girl Posts: 454

    Margie....you are on the right track with the suggestion of mixed use. Thank you.