wren hewell property annexation
A map shows the 55 acres that are proposed to be annexed into Gilroy’s city limits.
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A county board overseeing land annexations once again delayed considering Gilroy’s request to add 55 acres to its city limits on April 5.

But when the Santa Clara County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) brings the item back to the table in June, it may deny the request based on its staff’s recommendation.

Known as the Wren Investors and Hewell Urban Service Area Amendment, 50 acres of the property extends west of Wren Avenue, south of Vickery Avenue and north of Tatum Avenue. Another five-acre property nearby, northeast of the intersection of Vickery Lane and Kern Avenue, is also included in the proposal.

Most of the property sits across from the former Antonio Del Buono Elementary School, now the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s South County Annex.

While no development plans have been submitted, the developers’ conceptual plan for the site shows 307 residential units along with a little less than an acre dedicated to a commercial project.

In a report by LAFCO Executive Officer Neelima Palacherla and Assistant Executive Officer Dunio Noel, the officials recommended that the board deny the annexation, calling the proposed expansion of the city’s limits “premature at this time and does not represent orderly growth and development for the city.”

Based on information submitted by the city, LAFCO staff determined that the city has “adequate land” already to accommodate residential growth over the next eight years. According to the report, state law and LAFCO policies encourage the development of vacant or underutilized lands within existing city boundaries when a city has more than a five-year supply of vacant land.

However, city officials anticipate that much of its vacant land would be developed over the next five years, stressing the need for such an annexation “to have adequate residential land to meet future residential growth requirements,” according to a 2021 letter. 

The LAFCO officers also questioned how Gilroy could provide services such as police, fire and wastewater, noting that the city “has not adequately demonstrated its ability to provide and fund” such things, especially when a fourth fire station is dependent on the continuing development of Glen Loma Ranch in the western portion of the city, while sewer line upgrades “remain uncertain.”

The annexation was originally scheduled for LAFCO’s consideration in February but was delayed due to a staff illness. The April 5 hearing was delayed on the suggestion of city officials, who sought more time to digest LAFCO’s March 10 report and recent letters submitted from other agencies.

The annexation proposal has taken different shapes since Wren Investors first began the process in 2000. That early plan, which included the current property under review as well as one additional parcel, was rejected by the City Council for various reasons, such as negative fiscal impacts on the city and school district, according to a 2020 staff report.

The application was revised in 2012, and another proposal for the additional five acres was submitted by Mark Hewell in 2014. In addition, another proposal to annex 721 acres in northern Gilroy was submitted in 2014, which included the two other plans.

That larger proposal was eventually scrapped by the council after LAFCO filed a lawsuit in 2016, claiming the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act when it approved an environmental impact report, but the smaller annexation requests continued to go through the process.

The Wren Investors and Hewell properties are within the 2016 voter-approved urban growth boundary.

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.

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