Town Hall with Supervisor Neal Coonerty

neal-coonertyWhat is on the horizon for the old Cemex Corp. cement plant, in Davenport? Are there any plans being developed for the site? 

The Davenport cement plant ceased operations in 2009 after more than 100 years of existence. The cement plant property is still owned by Cemex Corp, which is headquartered in Monterrey, Mexico. 

Last year Cemex sold more than 8,000 acres of its forested property adjacent to the cement plant to a coalition of land trusts who plan to keep that acquisition as open space, and someday hope to provide access to this magnificent piece of property to the public. 

Currently, Cemex is going through the process of a Closure Plan with the county’s Environmental Health Department which will ensure that Cemex will remediate any hazardous materials or toxics left on the property. 

In 2014, the county’s Planning Department will begin a process to develop a strategy for the potential reuse of the Cemex plant site which will include meetings with the local community in Davenport to seek their input, looking at the constraints of the property, and exploring potential reuse options. The cement plant property is in the coastal zone, so any reuse must be consistent with Coastal Act policies.  

It is impossible to predict at this point what exactly may end up on that site—an inclusive community and public process will help inform that decision—but we don’t want Cemex to put a fence around the plant site and watch it rust. Instead, we have an opportunity to look at a variety of options that hopefully will complement the incredible natural beauty of the surroundings and provide a public benefit.

Is there progress toward construction of the rail trail? 

Yes. Last year the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) purchased the rail right-of-way, which extends from Davenport to Watsonville. The rail trail will be a bicycle/pedestrian trail along the rail line.  

I share the community’s eagerness to begin construction of the rail trail. Approximately $5.3 million in rail trail construction funding is available and several local jurisdictions have applied for funding in order to construct portions of the trail. 

The City of Santa Cruz is seeking funding for a segment of the trail that begins at Natural Bridges State Beach and ends at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. This section of the trail will serve a broad spectrum of the community and I think it is a very strong proposal.

On Dec. 5, the RTC is expected to vote on which trail segments to fund. Meanwhile, the RTC will continue to pursue more rail trail construction funding so that additional segments of the rail trail can be built. 

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Homeless Census and Survey, which was released in October, shows an up tick in homelessness locally. What was your reaction to the report’s findings?  

I found the results of the Homeless Census and Survey extremely disappointing and frustrating. The county has funded a number of programs over the years in an effort to reduce homelessness in our community. Recently we have supported the 180/180 program, which has successfully provided permanent housing for the most vulnerable homeless.

Obviously, though, we are not succeeding very well. One reason for this is that the economy, both nationally and locally, is still struggling and this is particularly destructive for those at the lower end of the income scale. In addition, the availability of lower priced housing in our community is extremely limited. With a limited supply of decently paying jobs and the high cost of housing, it isn’t  too surprising that even long-time local residents can find themselves unable to afford to live here in permanent housing.

We need additional assistance from the state and federal governments to significantly decrease homelessness.

I will work to allocate our limited resources to the most effective programs in order to assist those members of our community who need it most. 

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