• Whispering Oaks project approval is rescinded

    The Monterey County Board of Supervisors on Tues., Feb. 14 overturned their previous decision to approve the MST/Whispering Oaks project. The reversal came after more than 18,000 opposing signatures were collected by Fort Ord Rec Users and verified, enough to put the measure on the ballot before the people. A lawsuit had also been filed by LandWatch Monterey County on behalf of various environmental and recreation-oriented groups, which opposed the location, but not the project.

    Thirty-seven people voiced opposition at the Supervisors’ meeting.

    The project proposed to destroy 3,400 oak trees on 58-acres in the former Fort Ord for a bus service yard and office park for MST. Opponents argued that, while a bus yard is an admirable option which would consolidate MST activities now spread across other locations, other viable property is available, including on the former Ft. Ord. Particularly, there is a “shovel-ready” site at the Marina Airport that many point to as a more realistic option, one that would not destroy open land. It has been estimated that Monterey County has some 1.26 million square feet of industrial space and nearly 800,000 square feet of retail space currently sitting empty. At the time of the original approval, MST’s Hunter Horvath said that the Ft. Ord location is more centrally located for MST operations than the two in Salinas or the one at Ryan Ranch in Monterey.

    The County Planning Commission had originally denied the project, in March, 2011 because of the extraordinary number of mature trees that would be removed. The supervisors’ July, 2011 decision reversed that decision on appeal.

    That reversal, also on a 4-1 vote but with Jane Parker dissenting, opened the door for MST to complete efforts to receive federal financing. At the time, MST was one of only eight projects nationwide to qualify for consideration to receive federal funding under the US Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. MST had garnered a $30 million no-interest loan, which is probably now forfeit. Based on the July, 2011 approval, MST proceeded to pay Monterey County more than $800,000 in fees and permits. It is unknown whether those funds can be refunded or applied to another project but MST CEO Carl Sedoryk was quoted as saying they could hopefully reuse most of the investment at another site.

    The parcel remains on the list for development under both the Fort Ord Base Reuse Plan and the County General Plan. Whether that will come about or be another battle at the ballot box remains to be seen.

     

    posted to Cedar Street Times on February 17, 2012

    Topics: Front PG News, Marge Ann Jameson

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