Trees cleared at San Juan Bautista proposed gas station site

SAN JUAN BAUTISTA, Calif. - Controversy continues over a proposed gas station project in San Juan Bautista.  It's a story we first reported on in May.  Some said the developer is leaving a federally protected species without a home.  On Monday, we found out why the city gave the developer the green light to take some trees down.

At the corner of The Alameda and Highway 156 in San Juan Bautista, Ray Sanchez said about 8-10 trees stood tall for about 100 years, with at least one nest belonging to a Red-Tailed Hawk.

"That had vegetation that was still green inside the bedding.  But they, by law as we understand it, they could legally knock the tree down as long as there was no bird and no egg," said concerned resident Ray Sanchez.

Now the plot of land is bare of any trees, after the city said the gas station developer asked for permission to cut them down.

"He hired an arborist and a biologist to review the site and then we issued a permit to remove the trees," said San Juan Bautista city manager Roger Grimsley.

Now a yoga company based out of the Bay Area said it plans to use the tree stumps on its property, to give them new life. 

The project was approved by the city, but has since been appealed by a group of residents.  The city said 41 conditional requirements were put on the developer, making sure there isn't a negative impact on nearby homes.

"Dark sky ordinance conditions, there's 41 conditions put onto the project to mitigate the light, the noise, the storm drain," Grimsley said.

Sanchez said with or without a bird or an egg during the tree removal process, the Red-Tailed Hawk's home should have been given the same treatment.

"For four days after the event, we saw the birds flying around here looking for their home which was obviously gone and so it was a sad situation for all of us," Sanchez said.    

The city of San Juan Bautista said it plans to discuss the appealed gas station project in July.  Until then, the project is on hold.

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