Thousand Trails’ appeal to Planning Commission for controversial expansion project is rejected 5-1

Photo by Chad Mays
Pat Toombs points to Uvas Creek, which opponents of the Thousand Trails RV Park expansion say will be negatively impacted.

By Staff Report

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously May 25 to approve a zoning amendment to change the current Recreational Vehicle Park General Plan, impacting a project to expand the Thousand Trails resort west of Morgan Hill along Watsonville Road.

Following the board’s decision, Chicago-based Equity LifeStyle Properties, owner of Thousand Trails, brought an appeal to the county’s Planning Commission on a technicality. They argued the county replied late to Equity’s April 7 application letter for a use permit which the county rejected, deeming the letter “incomplete.”

The planning commissioners at the May 27 meeting voted 5-1 against approving Thousand Trails appeal, with Commissioner Marc Rauser voting in favor. This means the amendment will become law June 25. Any applicant that does not have a “deemed complete” permit by that date will not be grandfathered in under the current rules.

A group of homeowners living near the RV park calling itself Heritage Neighborhood Alliance fought the proposed Thousand Trails expansion, arguing it will harm the environment and their quality of life in their rural neighborhood.

The group is pleased with the final outcome of the amendment approval and the appeal rejection, said its leader Pat Toombs.

“They can still expand or put in a new park under the new rules defined in the ordinance and its amendments,” she said. “This really just affects parks trying to begin or expand in rural residential, hillside or ag zoning areas without a zoning change.”

The proposed Thousand Trails expansion would have added 54 sites on an adjacent 6.8-acre plot of land for RVs to park, a 15 percent increase to the existing resort.

The area is zoned by the county for one home per five acres, Toombs said. The neighborhood group said construction would cause serious harm to the wildlife and ecology of the area and increase light pollution as well as noise that would disturb wildlife. For example, the threatened steelhead trout in Uvas Creek would be put at risk if the water is polluted or drained, they said.

The proposed expansion may cause safety issues for residents and park guests if they have a long line of RVs and emergency vehicles crowding the narrow roads during a fire or other emergencies, Toombs said.

Robert Airoldi