Supes Pass on Mini-City
Rancho San Juan decision will go to the voters.
Thursday, March 3, 2005
Voters will make the final decision on the controversial Rancho San Juan subdivision in November. The Board of Supervisors could have repealed its approval of the 4,000-home development at its March 1 meeting. It was an unlikely scenario, but the Supes may have had the political willpower to say no to the huge 2,600-acre project.
“If I had my way, I’d prefer to see a repeal,” said Supervisor Dave Potter, who voted against the subdivision late last year. But, he added, “I already lost that battle.”
Potter said he didn’t want to lose another battle. Then he made a motion to place the referendum on a special school district election on Nov. 8, 2005. It will be conducted as an all-mail ballot, and will cost taxpayers about $10,000.
Supervisor Jerry Smith—who spoke out against Rancho San Juan last November while he was running for office—seconded Potter’s motion. “This project has had so much controversy,” he said. “It certainly didn’t represent the win-win I had hoped for. The most prudent way to approach this is a Nov. 8 election.”
The board unanimously agreed.
In December, 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. Potter and Supervisor Lou Calcagno voted against the development, which would include 4,000 homes, a golf course, hotels, shops, schools and a town center.
Potter and Calcagno worried that the project will contribute to traffic congestion and will make the water overdraft situation worse. They also said they were concerned that most people who live in Monterey County—especially those who will work at the development’s golf course and hotels—would not be able to afford the homes being built.
The Supes who voted to approve the project—Fernando Armenta, Butch Lindley, and Edith Johnsen—cited the threat of a lawsuit from developer Moe Nobari that could cost county taxpayers as much as $100 million.
Two months later, however, the Supes are looking at litigation from several different sources. The City of Salinas, Caltrans, LandWatch Monterey County, the Save Our Peninsula Committee and a nearby property owner have all filed lawsuits to stop the development.
About 8,700 voters signed petitions to force a referendum to put the project on the ballot.
At the board’s March 1 meeting, some opponents asked the supervisors to repeal its earlier decision.
“Your voters have spoken,” said Jan Mitchell, speaking on behalf of the Rancho San Juan Opposition coalition.
“Keep your word,” said Marjorie Kay. “Two voted to deny, and one newly-elected supervisor campaigned that Rancho San Juan was bad land-use planning.”
Neither Smith nor Calcagno suggested repeal.