Council approves residential development, spat ensues

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Councilman Peter Arellano

After a long period of convoluted and emotionally charged discussion, Council voted 4-1 during Monday’s regular meeting to make an exception to a city ordinance that limits the number of market-value residential allotments to approve a 91-unit residential project west of Monterey Street and east of Wren Avenue, near Gilroy Veterinary Hospital. 

Council granted the project’s developer, James Suner of the James Group, 25 extra market-value residential units beyond what the current city ordinance allows for, citing that they liked the layout and conditions of the proposed development. 

Averse to the idea of “rubber stamping” the development, Councilman Peter Arellano begged Council to stall the approval of the project in favor of more in-depth discussion.

“We can’t just arbitrarily OK this project and then say no to the next one. One of the things we need to do is really look at this and making sure we are doing the right thing,” Arellano said. 

After an hour-and-a-half heated discussion that included raised voices and impatient sighs and scoffs from various members, Council decided to move forward with the project’s approval. 

After the motion had been passed, Arellano attempted to continue to discuss specifics of the plan, including not allowing thorny rosemary bushes to be planted in the open space areas of the development. 

“Peter, I’ve listened to you talk for 15 minutes too long already tonight, I said no,” Councilman Bob Dillon said, interrupting Arellano. 

“You made the motion without any discussion of this, and in the past, if you indulge me, we’ve always discussed, in detail, all applications, in detail,” Arellano said, his voice rising.

“We never had to do that before you were running for mayor, Peter,” Dillon said.

“You’re lying now, Bob,” Arellano said. 

With Mayor Al Pinheiro’s absence, Cat Tucker, mayor pro tempore, tried to take control of the evening. 

“That’s enough,” Tucker said. 

Arellano slammed his notebook on his podium, his face deep red, picked up his binders and stormed out of the meeting around 8:10 p.m. Ten minutes later, he quietly returned. 

The project, known as Harvest Park, includes single family units, two multi-family units, an extension of Cohansey Avenue, two open spaces and a public art contract with Gilroy Arts Alliance. 

In addition to Pinheiro, Councilman Dion Bracco was absent from Monday’s meeting. 

Also during Monday’s meeting:

Council voted 4-1 to reject a $47,800 expenditure for construction improvements to the softball diamond at Sunrise Park, west of Santa Teresa in the northwest quad, citing the project’s budget had gone “way overboard.”

Council decided to talk about how to downsize the project to stay within the original, existing $50,000 budget at a later date, rather than approving the $92,800 construction bid. 

“My question is, how did this get way overboard?” Tucker said.

“This seems to have gotten out of hand to me,” Dillon said.  

The $92,800 project would have involved three basic upgrades: Replacing the existing backstop with a larger one, constructing two new dugouts with benches along with protective fencing, and replacing the grass infield with a mixture of clay and volcanic cinder fines.

“I’m questioning the need for all those upgrades,” Councilman Peter Leroe-Munoz said. 

Arellano voted no on the motion, because he wanted to discuss what improvements with $50,000 could be made right away, rather than waiting for a future meeting. 

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