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.