San Martin residents share with commissioners their opinions of the project

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By Marty Cheek

Concerned South Valley citizens expressed their views for and against the proposed Cordoba Center at a special meeting of the Santa Clara County Planning Commission and San Martin Planning Advisory Committee.

Held at the Morgan Hill Community Center May 2, the meeting addressed the findings of the final environmental impact report, a 610-page document. The Cordoba Center will have no significant impact to the environment, the report concluded.

For more than 12 years, the South Valley Islamic Community has worked to develop the Cordoba Center as a multi-use religious and cultural center to serve the Muslim community on a 15.8-acre site on Monterey Road in San Martin. The primary structures proposed include a two-story mosque and a two-story community center building. The western portion of the site would be used as a cemetery, a component of the project which has raised concerns among nearby residents. Several say the decay of the corpses has the potential of putting pollutants in the ground water, spoiling their wells.

The EIR included a letter from Norman Hantzsche, an engineer at Questa Engineering Corp, which studies environmental and water resources. It states that Questa reviewed the technical information for the Cordoba Center’s wastewater treatment system used to control nitrates and other chemicals.

“Based on the submitted materials along with our own experience and knowledge of the AdvanTex treatment system, we find that the revised plans for wastewater treatment are suitable for the project and capable of meeting the recommended 20 mg-N/L effluent limitation,” according to the letter.

Other environmental concerns of the project — including noise and lighting and traffic — had no significant impact, according to the EIR.

At the May 2 meeting residents supporting and opposing the project sat holding cardboard signs expressing their view. Many spoke to officials during the public comments time following the presentation of the EIR’s findings. Among them was Kathy Campbell, a resident for nearly two decades.

“I support the Cordoba Center as I believe it will be a true reflection of our community of good people joining together in respectful diversity,” she told the officials. “After reading the findings from the Santa Clara County Planning Department, the Regional Water Quality Control Board as well as the California State Water Control Resources Board as well as what I heard tonight, including the mitigation measures to limit the number of burials a year and regular monitoring of the nitrate levels, I truly believe the Cordoba project and cemetery will be a safe and beautifully-constructed center that will complement with the surrounding natural environment.”

Longtime resident John Beebe expressed his concerns about protecting the safety of his well water. He lives within walking distance of the Cordoba property, he told the officials.

“While I like what I heard tonight, I still have concerns about my water. On my property is a well and we’ve just recovered from a perchlorate spill which pretty much destroyed several wells in this area,” he said. “And we’ve gone through about 25 years of recovery. A lot of people in this audience don’t live here. I live here. I’m concerned about my water. Now we’re going to be doing all these monitoring wells and testing the water quarterly, which is terrific. But what if we pollute the water? Who’s going to clean it up? That’s my question.”

According to the SVIC, the Cordoba Center complies with all county zoning, land use and environmental regulations. Land for the project was purchased in 2006 and the project application process was started. The project received unanimous approval of the Santa Clara County Planning Commission and the County Board of Supervisors in 2012. After that, opponents sued the county on the basis that the project would damage the environment. SVIC decided to avoid a lengthy legal battle and relinquished its entitlements.

Marty Cheek

Publisher at Morgan Hill Life
Marty Cheek is the publisher of Morgan Hill Life and Gilroy Life. He is also the co-author with Congressman Jerry McNerney of the book Clean Energy Nation: Freeing America From the Tyranny of Fossil Fuels.
Email: marty@morganhilllife.com
Phone: (408) 782-7575
Marty Cheek