COMMUNITY OPINION: Measure Q is a Trojan horse

COMMUNITY OPINION: Measure Q is a Trojan horse

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SBC Planning Commissioner Devon Pack writes on the reasons for opposing Measure Q.

This community opinion was contributed by Devon Pack, San Benito County Planning Commissioner. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors. BenitoLink invites all community members to share their ideas and opinions. By registering as a BenitoLink user in the top right corner of our home page and agreeing to follow us Terms of Useyou can write counter opinions or share your insights on current issues.

The full text of the Measure Q can be found at the San Benito County Registrar of Voters. I strongly urge all voters to read the full text of Measure Q, because the fine print is very important, and the actual effects of this measure are for more than what the proponents have been saying.

By now, it’s quite possible that you have received one or several flyers advocating for Measure Q. Groups like Campaign to Protect San Benito (also known as PORC) are playing fast and loose with the truth. Let’s go over how:

Campaign to Protect San Benito claims that Measure Q will ‘let voters decide on landfill expansion.’ This is false. First of all, no aspect of Measure Q addresses any of the matter between the County of San Benito and Waste Solutions Group of San Benito , which is contracted to administer and operate the landfill. Furthermore, the decision of whether to approve Waste Solution’s request to expand the landfill is scheduled to be decided by the Board of Supervisors in November. Measure Q has no language that will affect the landfill expansion , and will not even be in effect before the matter of the proposed landfill expansion has already been decided.

Campaign to Protect San Benito claims that Measure Q will address sprawl in San Benito County. This is false. There is no aspect of measure Q which actually applies to or regulates residential property in San Benito County. Sprawl is mostly a consequence of residential develop, which Measure Q does not address. Residential property owners will be free to subdivide and develop regardless of Measure Q . If you read the text of the proposed language of Q, pay attention to Clause I, which allows the Board of Supervisors to re-designate land to residential and housing to comply with state housing requirements. So essentially, Measure Q will do nothing whatsoever to restrict residential development; only commercial and industrial development, which will in turn only enable residential developers to become the only game in the county.

Measure Q is in many ways a trojan horse of measure. Ostensibly, it is about the pretext of increasing democracy; yet who will have the wherewithal to fund and win ballot measures to amend the general plan, after measure Q? Only those with the wealth and power to spend a half a million dollars to win a ballot measure. Ordinary ranchers and farmers will be condemned- if they get a bad break, they will have no option but to sell to a wealthy developer that has the deep pockets to wait out the expiration of Measure Q, or to bundle that land into their slick and well funded campaign. I have jokingly referred to Measure Q as the San Benito Elections Employment Act, as it will basically result in a perpetual cycle of ballot measures.

Measure Q is ultimately taking away your power to petition local government by taking the regulation of agricultural and range land out of the hands of elected representatives and into an irreversible direct vote. It’s essentially eliminating the point of even having a county planning commission. Right now , you are guaranteed two public forums with every development project: the planning commission, and the board of supervisors. With Measure Q in effect, there will be more ads, more murk, more powerful developers going back and forth with ad blitzes to get whatever they want. Measure Q overturns the judgment of accountable elected officials for the forum of the ad buys, where money talks.

Measure Q constitutes a great taking from the farmers and ranchers of San Benito County. Rural Owners will face an unprecedented restriction upon their property rights, in the form of not being able to seek a re-designation of their land except by ballot measure. This will be a state action restricting property rights, and as such Measure Q will be the subject of costly litigation, and is unlikely to be upheld in court.

The real insidious provisions of Measure Q lays in the ways Measure Q will change the County General Plan without a vote. It will eliminate the Commercial Thoroughfare and Commercial Regional zones altogether. Measure Q is an act of economic warfare, to prevent San Benito County from ever having any commercial presence along our highways. In other words, no business development on highways 101, 156, or 25. Presently, San Benito County Land Use definitions do not have a Floor Area Ratio requirement which governs the proportion of land to building on any lot. Measure Q will set Floor Area Ratios. So Measure Q is secretly imposing more restrictions on San Benito property owners, without a democratic vote. These floor area ration restrictions will further limit small property owners in being able to develop their land.

Measure Q is an anti-business measure that, by section C, blocks the county from ever creating new commercial zones. Don’t be fooled. This is economic warfare from commercial interests in Gilroy, Prunedale, and Salinas who don’t want the sales taxes of San Benitoites going to their own community, but rather to furnish the coffers of Morgan Hill and Gilroy. Our poverty has been their profit. Measure Q will ensure that money continues to flow out of our community to our out-of-county neighbors.

Measure Q is an act of economic self-destruction to San Benito County. It will essentially guarantee that San Benito farmers and ranchers will not be able to get any investment in their properties, as no bank or financier will ever want to gamble on a ballot vote, and it will accelerate the pattern of old families giving up and leaving San Benito County. At the same time, it leaves the existing residential areas untouched- so it’s a free hand to residential sprawl while inhibiting the commercial and industrial development that would fund our roads and schools. At the moment, the majority of Benitoites already commute out of the county for jobs. Why do we want to worsen that problem by killing commercial development in our county? Measure Q is a recipe for transforming San Benito into a residential residential slum- a purely bedroom community without local commerce or local employers. Let’s give San Benito a future- vote no on Measure Q.

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Jorge Oliveira

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