In a 4-3 vote the Gilroy City Council approved participation in a controversial Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan at its Monday evening meeting.
The plan – seven years in the making, and involving several agencies – would identify areas of land occupied by endangered and threatened animal species and make it easier for some types of development to occur there. The cost would be about $660 million over 50 years.
Voting against the plan were council members Dion Bracco, Bob Dillon, and Perry Woodward.
In addition to Gilroy, other cities involved in the plan include Morgan Hill and San Jose, along with the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, and Santa Clara County.
With Monday's vote, Gilroy is the first city to adopt the plan. Morgan Hill will consider the plan on Oct. 17 and San Jose on Oct. 23. The Santa Clara Valley Water District board approved the plan Sept. 25.
At 2,800 pages, critics have lambasted the document as overly complicated and hard to interpret.
“No agency understands the 2,800 pages and nobody wants to jump first. It strikes me as complex and it’s got many negatives,” Woodward said before Monday’s vote.
Bracco agreed and favored postponing the vote for further study. “Look at this document that nobody appears to have read,” he said. “What are they hiding? I can’t support it. This thing ought to be scrapped.”
But Arrello disagreed, noting that the project has been in the planning stages long enough and should not be postponed. “There will always be someone who has questions on it and wants it postponed; I can’t see going another five or seven years to do this. This is what Gilroy needs,” he said.
Several members of the public and representatives from the Hecker Pass property owners and the Save Open Space Gilroy organizations also spoke out against and in favor of the measure.
In the end, the measure passed with yes votes from Mayor Al Pinheiro, and council members Cat Tucker, Peter Leroe-Muñoz, and Peter Arellano.
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