The Gilroy City Council will vote next week whether it wants to
opt back into a county habitat conservation plan it separated from
just five weeks earlier. Full article
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If Monday night was a double take for the Gilroy City Council, its next meeting has the makings of a do-over.
The Council will vote whether it wants to rejoin a county habitat conservation plan it opted out of five weeks earlier. The Council’s 4-3 decision Monday night – which came after lengthy, contentious and sometimes sarcastic debate among Council members – opens the door for the city to return to the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Conservation Plan during the Council’s May 16 meeting.
Mayor Al Pinheiro and Council members Cat Tucker, Peter Arellano and Peter Leroe-Munoz decided in favor of bringing the plan back for a vote. Dion Bracco, Bob Dillon and Perry Woodward were against the motion.
The four who voted to bring the plan back all said the city needed to rejoin the plan to at least have a voice in discussions regarding the 50-year, $938 million plan, which includes the cities of Morgan Hill and San Jose, Santa Clara County, the Valley Transportation Authority and the Santa Clara Valley Water District.
“The reality is, we need to be at the table and then make a sound decision,” Tucker said.
Tucker, the city’s designated contact to the other member agencies, was not allowed to sit with her fellow representatives at the latest plan liaison meeting April 21 and instead sat in the audience, she said.
“Our representative’s not at the table,” Arellano said. “We’re going through other people trying to get our point across.”
He added, “We can be at the table and keep asking for those specific answers, but if we’re not in the process, why would they talk to us?”
The point of Monday night’s discussion was to receive a report from city staff on the consequences for opting out, as well as how long the city potentially could hold out until it rejoined.
But Woodward said he wasn’t satisfied with the report, citing its lack of details regarding just how the plan would affect developments such as Glen Loma Ranch and the Hecker Pass Specific Plan, as well as the possible expansion of the South County Regional WasteWater Authority plant and any potential litigation.
His motion to direct staff to return with a detailed report by June failed 4-3, however, before Arellano’s motion to bring back a vote on the plan itself next week was approved.
City Administrator Tom Haglund said Monday, “It’s been difficult to find anything that is specific in regards to the time line and the specific consequences.”
He said, however, that city and private projects could see quicker approval periods under the plan.
“The non-HCP route is going to be very time consuming,” Haglund said. “Development may slow down.”
The Council voted to opt out of the plan March 28, and the weeks that followed were filled with phone calls, emails and even what some Council members described as threats over their decision.
“It has nothing to do with what threats are, it has to do with getting the answers,” Pinheiro said.
A 30-day window for rejoining the plan was set to expire by the next Council meeting, though habitat plan program manager Ken Schreiber said Gilroy has until a June 16 liaison meeting to decide if it’s going to be a part of the plan.
Jennifer Williams, executive director of the Santa Clara County Farm Bureau, encouraged the Council to review its concerns but said it likely would benefit the city to remain out of the plan.
“I would hope that over a five-week period that you would be able to get some of the answers,” she said. “It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get answers.”
Kyle Wolfe, president of the Santa Clara County Cattleman’s Association, told the Council its decision to opt out had served as a “wake-up call” to wildlife officials, but added, “I don’t think you will ever get a clear answer from them.”
Connie Rogers, who is the Gilroy Historical Society president but said Monday she was speaking only as a resident, asked the Council to “stay at the table.”
“We need to stay at the table in order to get the things you think are right for the city of Gilroy,” Rogers said. “We need a coordinated plan. There is always benefit in keeping talking and saying what your needs are and how they can be met. I’d like to remind you that you have a lot of environmental constituents as well as developmental.”
Hecker Pass property owner Chris Vanni called rejoining the plan to keep negotiations alive “the prudent thing to do.”
“At some point we’re not going to be able to opt back in,” said Vanni, who added he didn’t support the plan as of now, but would be open to it after some changes.
Bracco said the Council needed to stay out of the plan as long as it could.
“I think we should stay the course until June 16,” he said. “Do we want to be taken seriously? When we make a decision, we should stay the course.”