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Eighty percent of the plan is always a copy/paste from the last version. If the county refuses to do the real planning, then it becomes 100 percent. We can just take an aerial photograph of the county, sign it, file it, and save millions of dollars; however, that would be a serious dereliction of duty. The county’s future cannot be a “come as you are” party.

Passing up growth because of what happened in Hollister is like passing up life-saving heart bypass surgery because some surgeons do a bad job. The problem is not development – it’s unplanned and bad development and that’s exactly what we are going to get if we refuse to do the difficult, politically sensitive, and unpopular part of the General Plan Update – pointing to study areas where things could and should go.

AMBAG’s 2010 growth projections reduced by 20 percent still puts about 1,000 new homes in Hollister and more than 3,300 in the unincorporated areas by 2025. Much of the county is already off limits due to agriculture, topography, transportation, existing zoning, and other restrictions. If we add further barriers based on personal and political preference, there is nowhere left for them to go. That’s the opposite of planning and we can predict how that will turn out – badly.

We have to retain the Special Study Areas in the plan to at least point at possibilities; without them, the plan is not a plan at all and it’s not worth years of our time and millions of our dollars.

The future of San Benito County and its residents will depend in good part on its ability to generate revenue because we have little control over our expenses. We have already cut discretionary, but sorely needed, county services to the bone.

Unemployment and under-employment rates remain very high and poverty is the number one problem. Meanwhile, both the state and federal government keep piling on the expenses such as CARB compliance, water and sewer costs.

In 2011, the per capita personal income in SBC was 85 percent of Monterey County, 80 percent of the California average, 71 percent of Santa Cruz County, and only 57 percent of Santa Clara County.

Planned communities – not piecemeal construction – are the future. They are efficient, provide a range of housing options, cost less to service, and attract the business campuses, commercial and personal services that bring income and jobs into the county. But planned communities need a plan for where to go.

Those who already have theirs must open our county to a better future by doing their duty and not merely producing an empty General Plan designed to stifle good growth opportunities for decades to come.

Marty Richman is a Hollister resident.

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