Huge Development May Face Vote
Rancho San Juan’s opponents submit petitions to County.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Opponents of the Rancho San Juan development say they’ve collected some 13,000 signatures—more than enough necessary to put the massive plan before Monterey County voters.
On Jan. 12, a group that braved rain, wind and Christmas shoppers to gather signatures forcing a referendum on the 2,600-acre project submitted stacks of petitions to the county elections department.
At least 8,697 valid signatures were required. If election department officials validate the petitions, the County Board of Supervisors could set a special election to determine the fate of Rancho San Juan, or put the issue on the ballot for the next general election in 2006.
“I’m grateful this process is coming to an end,” says Julie Engell, who chairs the Rancho San Juan Opposition Coalition. “It was engineered to occur during the holidays, when people have a lot of other commitments and the weather usually stinks. This year, we were also blessed with the flu. We knew what we were up against and I’m delighted to have the numbers that we have.
“Even yesterday, when I was gathering signatures, I very frequently had people say to me, ‘I’m so glad—I’ve been looking for you guys.’”
Last month, County Supervisors ignored the unanimous thumbs down given by the Planning Commission and approved the largest development in Monterey County’s history by a 3-2 vote. Supervisors Dave Potter and Lou Calcagno voted against the project, which will include 4,000 homes, a golf course, hotels, shops, schools, commercial space, and a town center, between Prunedale and Salinas.
On Dec. 14, the board also approved the first phase of the development: the golf-and-residential Butterfly Village.
Rancho San Juan was first designated in the early ‘80s, and in 1999, Butterfly Village developer Moe Nobari filed a lawsuit to force the county to process a development plan. He repeatedly threatened that should the Supervisors deny his project, he would sue, and could seek as much as $100 million in lost revenue for 14 years of delays.
“We cannot afford to pay for the past 14 years,” former County Chief Administrative Officer Sally Reed warned the elected officials, encouraging them to approve the proposal.
Opponents say the new mini-city will contribute to traffic congestion pave over crop land, and will make the water overdraft situation worse. And they charge that most people who live in Monterey County—including those who will work at the golf course and in the hotels—won’t be able to afford the homes that will be built at Rancho San Juan.
The city of Salinas doesn’t like the huge development either. City officials worry that Rancho San Juan will burden city roads and its already bare-bones services.
Just days after the Supervisors approved Rancho San Juan, opponents began circulating the petitions to stop the development.