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Fred Sandoval

SAN BENITO — As they mull proposed residential and commercial development, city leaders are planning to launch a master plan aimed at guiding the city into the next decade.

At City Hall, City Manager Fred Sandoval is planning to tap into a new $250,000 grant to help fund a comprehensive plan charting the city’s development into what officials are describing as a pivotal period of growth.

Earlier this month, city commissioners met in closed session to discuss the project after CSRS LLC, a business consulting firm, presented one of two bids.

Now, Sandoval is working to determine the project’s price tag.

“The plan is going to guide us,” Mayor Rick Guerra said Wednesday. “We need to prioritize for the next five, 10, 15, 20 years so we can start moving that way. We have to budget. It’s a guide for our finances, how we’re going to use our finances — and it shows the people we’re planning on moving the city and what the future holds for them.”

During the next few years, he’s planning to work to bring in new jobs and retail development while upgrading city services, Guerra said.

“I’d like to see the city bring in jobs, stores, infrastructure,” he said.

The master plan will become the city’s first since 2016, when a previous administration developed a comprehensive plan focusing on building the economy and revitalizing the city’s core while planning new housing and parks.

“This plan will lay the framework for how the city should best handle the rehabilitation of the downtown and older neighborhoods while also considering new housing options and infrastructure to support the existing and anticipated population,” the plan states in its introduction.

While the plan reviews parks and recreational options “in order to promote San Benito as a city that provides adequate and accessible parks and trails that are clean, safe and well connected throughout the city,” it also aimed to “help San Benito establish a collective economic development strategy and partnerships that incentivizes businesses to locate and stay within the city.”

Traffic is seen entering San Benito in this undated Valley Morning Star file photo.

But previous administrations failed to follow through with the plan, Commissioner Tom Goodman said.

“It’s up to the commission to keep that master plan alive,” he said. “It should get updated every couple of years.”

The city’s new comprehensive plan will help chart the city’s course during a pivotal period in which officials are facing proposed residential and commercial development, Goodman said.

“It becomes essential to our future growth,” he said. “San Benito continues to be approached by lots of development opportunities — subdivisions, commercial.”

The new master plan will help officials determine “how we manage growth and how we approach it to come up with an equitable plan as far as residential, commercial and quality of life,” Goodman said.

The plan “basically becomes the priority list,” serving as the city’s “guide,” helping officials determine “in what direction we need to plan for development, the future plan for our parks, where we need to fix our infrastructure,” he said.

Within the city commission, the master plan will also help commissioners focus on the city’s vision, Goodman said.

“It becomes a way to avoid personal agendas on the commission because we’re all pulling in the same direction with the master plan,” he said. “It becomes a vision of what our community can become — and we have sorely lacked vision in our community.”