It has been a busy fall full of important issues and meetings for Gilroy Growing Smarter. To summarize:
1) High Speed Rail alignment - Last spring GGS publicly took the position that the Downtown Ariel alignment would be most beneficial in the long run. In 2011 the City received a grant from CHSR which funded a six month public community study and in 2012 the Council voted for the downtown alignment. Now the City Council is very reluctant to express a preference, despite the fact that our General Plan in progress really needs this information.
At a Council Study Session on Dec. 6th two topics will be discussed: the Highway 101 CHSR alignment options that have been analyzed by the High-Speed Rail Authority, and staff's comments on the three other alignments currently under consideration by the Authority (East Gilroy, Downtown Viaduct and Downtown Embankment). Staff comments do not recommend Council support one alignment over the others. They focus on issues and concerns that would result should any of the alignments be developed. At this point it is unknown when the HSR Authority will make a decision on the alignment or when the Environmental Impact Report for the Merced to San Francisco segment that includes Gilroy will be released.
2) Great Wolf Lodge - In August the City entered a 60 day period of negotiations with Great Wolf to determine what factors of their potential hotel on Gilroy Gardens city-owned property would determine whether the City would accept a development application from them. During September Great Wolf held several meetings with community groups, including GGS, to explain their proposal. The 9% Transient Occupancy Tax (hotel tax paid by visitors) was a powerful incentive for the City, but were the financial incentives required by Great Wolf and environmental factors too great a drawback?
GGS did not take a position, although some of us attended many informational meetings and spoke under public comment prior to Council closed sessions. We also submitted a Dispatch editorial and letter to the Council asking several critical questions. The 60 day period of exclusive negotiations with Gilroy expired on Sept 30th, so currently Great Wolf can negotiate with other cities, like Manteca which has a site ready for them. Although there are other potential sites available in Gilroy not owned by the City, it is not known whether Great Wolf is interested in them.
3) Gilroy General Plan - This document will be the City's “bible” for development until 2040. After the passage of Measure H our Urban Growth Boundary a year ago it was necessary to revise the plan and recalculate the capacity figures. Several new members were appointed last summer, including core members of GGS, Carolyn Tognetti and Joey Weitz, along with 28 other community members. They have had three meetings since being reactivated and have made initial choices about densities and priority development areas. At their next meeting in early 2018 the consultants will make reports and the GPAC members will make final decisions.
4) Downtown - Carol Marques and Linda West have been evaluating what is needed and trying to work with the Downtown Business Association. The DBA is focused on Transformation Strategies organized around four points: Economic Vitality, Design, Promotion and Organization. They have committees working in each of these areas. They want to follow the Main Street program which has proven successful in other communities with historic downtowns. Their eight Guiding Principles include capitalizing on assets that make each downtown unique, such as distinctive buildings and human scale that give people a sense of belonging. They are looking for volunteers to help them carry out their plans and would like to hear from GGS supporters.
Get in touch with Gary Walton, GDBA President, at gary@Custom-1.com if you’d like to help.
5) Hecker Pass Specific Plan - recently an application for a six-acre agri-tourism parcel opposite Gilroy Golf Course was submitted and a Mitigated Negative Declaration was circulated. Both Carolyn and Connie commented as individuals, saying that the plans did not seem to comply with the intent of the HPSP for agri-tourism. Although it was scheduled for the Planning Commission in early November, that was postponed and there was no staff report to review. The concerning factors were the 22 apartments planned above the commercial buildings which were poorly designed. This will come back and may need our action, but when?
6) Suspension of RDO Interim Exemption - At their Nov. 6th meeting the City Council voted 5-2 (Tovar and LeRoe-Munoz dissenting) to suspend applications under the of Residential Development Ordinance (RDO) Interim Exemption Extension for Twenty-Four Months to Allow Time to Re- Evaluate the RDO after Completion of the General Plan. This means that no new housing development applications will be accepted beyond three apartment projects that are already in the pipeline. It does not apply to infill projects of four units or less or downtown residential projects.
MEETINGS COMING UP
Dec. 5th - Deadline to apply for City Boards and Commissions. If our views are to be heard, it is important to have representation on these bodies. Download an application from the City website and submit to the City Clerk. Must be a registered voter living inside the city limits. The City Council will hold interviews for applicants on Dec. 11th.
Dec. 6th at 6 PM in the Council Chambers - Study Session on High Speed Rail alignments. No votes will be taken, only information & questions.
January 16th at 7 PM - Gilroy Growing Smarter Core upstairs at the Gilroy Library, 350 West Sixth St. Focus will be on how we can help Downtown. All who are interested are welcome.