47.9 F
Gilroy
April 13, 2024

Strada Verde project still in limbo

Despite recent attention due to sign removal case, project not moving forward

The Strada Verde Innovation Park (SVIP) project remains stuck in limbo since the approval process was halted earlier this year. Despite a recent public spat that put the spotlight back on the project, no recent progress has been made to move it forward.

After years of attempts to bring the SVIP to life, in early 2023 project developer Newport Pacific Land Co. pulled out of the approval process it had embarked on with San Benito County. Former San Benito County Supervisor and SVIP spokesperson Anthony Botelho told the Free Lance that a number of factors contributed to the project stalling, with a lack of funding being a major one.

“With the way inflation and interest rates are, it’s just a real tough time for venture capital. And so it’s still a project that we’re going to pursue. We just aren’t moving as fast as we were,” Botelho said.

In November, after months of inactivity on the project, local group Citizens Against Strada Verde put up dozens of signs around San Benito County emblazoned with the slogan “Stop Strada Verde.” Allegations of theft were thrown at Botelho by Frank Barragan, a spokesperson for the group, after Botelho took it upon himself to remove the signs from what he considered public right-of-ways. 

Ultimately, the signs were returned and San Benito County District Attorney Joel Buckingham did not pursue charges against Botelho.

Community members have since voiced their concerns over what was perceived as preferential treatment of the former supervisor at the hands of local law enforcement. However, Buckingham said that Botelho was well within his right to remove the signs, as they violated local and state political signage laws.

Botelho said that Barragan’s group had engaged in “misinformation” and that their activities might have dissuaded possible investors in the project. Barragan in response said that any investment in SVIP at this point would be irresponsible.

“No responsible investor should back the Strada Verde project,” Barragan said. “I am not surprised to hear investors are pulling their money but that has not stopped Botehlo and others on the development team and certain county officials from lying to promote the project.  They may well be trying to lure some other investors.

Despite the renewed interest the public row between detractors of the SVIP and its supporters caused, there is no movement on the stalled approval process.

The Free Lance reached out to county Planning Director Abraham Prado to confirm whether activity has resumed on the project since.

“The status of the Strada Verde project is that it is currently on hold. No representatives from the project have reached out to resume the process,” Prado said.

The SVIP has faced opposition from county residents since it was first proposed in 2020. 

The developer initially put it in front of the voters as Measure N, touting the project as a commercial and technology-centered development at the edge of San Benito County.

Measure N would have created the Strada Verde Specific Plan on a 2,777-acre agricultural property in northern San Benito County, in the area of Highways 25 and 101. The plan would have created zoning for a variety of commercial and industrial uses—including an automotive testing facility—as well as a 209.5-acre park. The plan would also preserve about 561 acres of the site for farmland.

According to studies commissioned by the developer, the SVIP would bring over 11,000 full-time jobs to the area and bring the county about $3.7 million in annual revenue. 

Residents were not convinced, however, and the measure was defeated with close to 60% of San Benito County voters striking down the proposal in the 2020 election.The project was subsequently brought back to the county to begin the approval process, and planners even began to compile an Environmental Impact Report earlier this year. However, in March Newport Pacific stopped all activity.

The Strada Verde information Center, located in downtown Hollister, continues to operate and in the last year has been used as a meeting place for local groups and organizations. For now, Botelho said, the center will continue to promote the SVIP and attempt to forge ties with the community.

“Strada Verde is a long-term vision and it is the future. We need technical advancement and it’s [going to happen here] in San Benito County [or] somewhere else. We want this type of economic growth in our county,” Botelho said.

Please leave a comment

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

SOCIAL MEDIA

10,025FansLike
1,129FollowersFollow
2,589FollowersFollow