A citizen-driven effort to annex farmland on the outskirts of Watsonville and develop it into a commercial hub will not go on the November ballot, Watsonville City Council Member and leader of the movement Daniel Dodge said Friday.
The deadline to turn in the required 1,500 signatures is Monday.
But the proposal is not dead. Dodge said he's gotten overwhelming support and has the signatures necessary on his petition to put the measure to a vote in November. He'd just like more time to get the word out.
"We've got a lot of support from a lot of people," he said Friday. "We want to build more bridges."
Dodge and his supporters are proposing , adding it to the city's reserves of land designated for commercial development. Known as the Sakata-Kett parcel, presently the land is actively farmed.
The proposal is staunchly opposed by the agriculture community.
Chris Enright, president of the , wrote a brief opinion in the Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture newsletter earlier this month:
In 2002, many stakeholders and 11 diverse organizations came together to discuss the future growth of the City of Watsonville. Measure U was the compromised agreement. This measure put aside three large parcels totaling over 500 acres of prime workable farmland to be developed. Without ever developing these three parcels, or the 22 other empty spaces on Main Street, Watsonville, Councilman Daniel Dodge is now eyeing more than 80 acres of prime working farmland to pave over. This is unneeded, unimaginative and divisive. We value our wetlands and open spaces, so why not value the very earth that feeds us?
Dodge's perspective, also shared in the Chamber newsletter, said "Watsonville needs jobs! ... This petition will allow for a major new shopping center that will generate new tax revenues for Watsonville to provide more important services like police, fire, library, parks and recreation."
Dodge would like to see it developed into retail space, for business such as the and that city residents desperately want. If successful, the development would offer more jobs——and increase the city's sales tax base.
People are supportive, the council member said. The Register-Pajaronian newspaper reported earlier this month that Julian Posadas, former organizer for AFSCME, was leading the signature-gathering effort in the city with a team of 15 volunteers. They have been walking neighborhoods and knocking on doors.
"I got to tell you, in all honesty, I get very few people who tell me no," Dodge said.
Dodge said it's likely his group would put the initiative to a vote of Watsonville residents in 2013. November's ballot will be heavy with tax issues, including a and the .
"November is really crowded," he said, expressing concern that the annexation proposal could get overlooked by voters at that time. "... We feel it's that important for the growth of our community, it deserves attention."
To contact Dodge for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (831) 786-6632.