Watsonville’s proposal to annex ag land for development fizzles
Watsonville’s Measure T, an initiative that proposed the city annex 95 acres of active agricultural land for retail development, was struck down on Tuesday, June 4 with more than three quarters of the vote in opposition to the proposal.
The measure, which Watsonville City Councilmember Daniel Dodge first initiated a year and a half ago and maneuvered into position for voters, was defeated 77.36 to 22.64, according to votescount.com.
The areas that were being considered—a 15-acre area called “Greenfarm” and another 80-acre region called “Sakata-Kett”—would have been paved over and used for new businesses that proponents of the measure believed would have boosted the city’s low employment numbers (20 percent of residents are unemployed) and served as a much-needed jumpstart for the local economy.
Chris Enright, a past president of the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau and member of the Committee to Defeat Measure T, says the proposal made no sense for Watsonville.
“The community values the ag land here,” he says. “We realize that it’s our No. 1 asset.”
He says the land that would have been developed on if the measure had passed already creates job opportunities and produces millions of dollars in revenue, and that paving over it would undermine the opportunities to build upon the empty spaces and unused buildings within the city’s limits.
“When you drive around Watsonville, you see the empty lots and the buildings, and it makes you wonder, why would you pave over something that’s actively farmed when you have other pieces of property that could be developed?” Enright says.
Dodge says the rejection of Measure T is a missed opportunity and that he believes many voters’ minds were swayed by the opposition’s campaign.
“There was a lot of negative campaigning thrown our way,” he says. “They touched a sensitive chord in our community about ag land. But I don’t want to sound like sour grapes because we were unsuccessful in convincing enough voters to push this proposal forward.”