Robert Rodriguez is a business owner and entrepreneur in the small town of Hollister, Calif. Last year at this time he was trying to start a flea market, but there was too much opposition from entrenched interests who publicly worried about traffic, noise, dust and crime. But the swap meet bug had bit him, and now he is trying again, this time hoping to host the market on land he currently uses for his existing heating and sheet metal company — and again he is facing fierce opposition from the powers that be, as FleaMarketZone reported in October. At the heart of the opposition this time: the property is across the street from an airport.
Now Rodriguez’ second proposed market is before the San Benito County Board of Supervisors. On Dec. 7, the board met to hear public comments, and those included some controversial remarks from the out-going mayor of Hollister, Victor Gomez, as reported in the Hollister Free Lance. The local paper, in a story titled, “Mayor to supes: Deny proposed flea market, or else,” characterized Gomez as telling the board that a decision to allow the market might prove damaging. As the Free Lance reported:
“Supervisors, remember one thing: Two-thirds of this county lives within the city of Hollister,” Gomez said during the public comment time of the board meeting.
Gomez, who finished his one-year term as mayor Monday and is entering his third year on the council, went on: “Remember how long it took to build a strong relationship? I’m not saying that this will change that or not, but it will definitely not help out.”
Gomez’s comment stunned supervisors. “I take that as an insult,” Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz responded during the meeting.
Supervisor Reb Monaco agreed. “I am offended by it as well,” Monaco said.
Contacted by FleaMarketZone.com, Victor Gomez said that the news report misrepresented him. “I have a really good relationship with our Board of Supervisers,” he says.
Gomez thinks the flea market proposal is a good one generally. “I’m a pro-flea-market kind of guy,” he says, adding that he enjoys shopping at flea markets. “I’m a business owner myself, and I hate to go against a business owner growing economically. Aside from the area of it, I think it is a great project.”
For him, the only real issue is the danger of calamity in the event of a plane crash. “It is pretty much safety,” he says. “I’m a student pilot, hoping to be a pilot in the next few weeks. The property for the proposed flea market is on the longest runway at our airport. Whenever you are landing, it’s a pretty sensitive time of the flight. That’s when 80 percent of crashes are – at landing or take off.”
“I have to disagree with him,” says Robert Rodriguez. “From the end of the runway to where we will be putting the market is about a quarter of a mile.” He says that the California Department of Transportation’s aeronautics division has issued guidelines on businesses near airports, and has even drawn maps showing recommended uses near the Hollister airport.
“CalTrans has recommendations for how you should have businesses around an airport. We’re consistent with that,” he explains. “I’m out of the safety zone. I’m out of the Runway Protection Zone.”
He also tells FleaMarketZone that there are already existing commercial and retail businesses near him, even more directly in the path of the runway. He says that the regulatory obstacles have been discouraging. “It’s just constant roadblock after roadblock,” says Rodriguez. “I’ve met all the requirements set by the county for health, fire, lease, and building.”
The Board of Supervisors has kicked the approval decision into next year, when election results will give new supervisors a chance to weigh in on the flea market. “Now they want me to come back with details on how we’re going to control the people and how we’re going to set it up,” Rodriguez reports. “I’m working on that with my engineer.”
He suggests that there is more in play here than just a business proposal, and that purely political considerations have a role. The Free Lance report suggests that there are strains between the city and the county, and comments by local citizens posted with that article agree. The proposed flea market is located in the county, while the airport is owned by the city.
Rodriguez says that the city’s airport has been feeding the commissioners and the public misinformation. “They’re saying that I’m right at the end of the runway, and I’m not,” he explains. His market will be an eighth of a mile away from the Runway Protection Zone, and a quarter of a mile away from the runway itself. He also complains that the city has acted in an underhanded manner. “The city council had a meeting to discuss my project without notifying me, my engineer or lawyer that I was to be on the agenda,” he says. “I was very upset about it when I found out after the fact, especially because I read it in the local paper.”
But Rodriguez is determined to keep on pushing for his flea market. “I’m not giving up.”