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San Benito
April 14, 2024

Santa Ana Road housing proposal spurs planning conundrum

San Benito County planners have been considering a development proposal for Santa Ana Road that has been continued over discrepancies with the general plan.
Planning commissioners have debated a 20-parcel subdivision for single-family homes proposed by Ann Williams and Scott Stotler at 1735 Santa Ana Road. The project came under question most recently at a September monthly meeting over sewer issues and the fact that the closest city pipeline for a hook-up isn’t anywhere near the land considered for new homes.
For now, it has been continued over, or tabled for commission consideration, as officials work out legal issues.
That development calls for 20 homes on 21 acres, while planning commissioners have held differing views on whether it’s appropriate due to the pipeline issues. Local planning department staff officials, meanwhile, aren’t keen on allowing septic tanks as a temporary stopgap until a potential pipeline goes in.
Even though the proposal falls in what’s called the city’s sphere of influence, a new pipeline would have to extend about 1,000 feet across other properties to reach the proposed housing, according to county planning documents.
“The septic is the big stick,” county Planning Commissioner Valerie Egland told San Benito Live, “because each one of those 1-acre parcels would have a septic system of their own.”
Commissioner Pat Loe said he goal was to follow the general plan guidelines in place.
“It’s conforming,” Loe said in an interview about the proposal. “The applicant has the general plan status for the county. As far as I know, it even fits the zoning.”
She said the problem is, there’s a contract between the city, county and water districts, and the project technically falls into Hollister’s sphere of influence.
“If it’s in the city’s sphere of influence for the sewer, the project itself has to hook up to the sewer,” she said. “But the problem is, there is no sewer connection. The lines don’t go that far.”
The city wants the applicant to run lines to the project. But Loe said that prospect “opens up that other area then for much higher densities” — which she suggested the city prefers.
“If the applicant then would decide to go ahead with the city’s general plan and build the project at the higher densities, he would have to annex to the city,” Loe said.
She surmised that would open up that area to a density of something like 16 units per acre.
“The developer is agreeing to basically put in the infrastructure,” she said. “So when the city runs the sewer line out there, that everybody would have to hook up as soon as that line is available.”
She called that a fair middle ground and didn’t seem to have a problem with septic tanks in that area, noting how it’s in line with the county health code.
County staff officials, meanwhile, have continually pointed out how the project fails to meet guidelines in the county general plan, which is a guide for future development policies.
According to planning commission meeting minutes from September, the City of Hollister sent a letter to Sunnyslope Water District requesting it withdraw a commitment to serve the area, and that the Sunnyslope board rejected the request “for the reason of the applicant is doing all they can to bring sewer service to the property.”
Commissioner Ray Pierce at the September meeting asked what it would take to come back with an approval, according to meeting minutes. He also asked the developer what contractor or subcontractors he would be using.
“We have some issues with the general plan,” Pierce said, adding how the “urban service area” is a big issue. “And I think we need to make some amendments to that area of the general plan.”
Pierce said the designation has “put all of the urban service area into a moratorium” against building until the city can annex such properties.
Another issue dealt with is the proposed Meridian Street extension. Two parcels would access a proposed Meridian Street extension, and eighteen parcels would access a proposed road to run south from Santa Ana Road to the proposed Meridian Street extension.