Monterey County voters face two opposing initiatives on Tuesday that deal with some 500 acres on the former Fort Ord. While some say this election is about preserving open space or helping the proposed Central Coast Veterans Cemetery – others say the election puts a land use decision in the wrong hands.
Gordon Smith is a photographer and veteran whose exhibit at the Seaside Peace Resource Center showcases the land in dispute in next week’s election. He points at one of his photos and says, “This is right next to where they want to build the racetrack.”
It’s a horse racing track Smith opposes. He is with a group called Keep Fort Ord Wild that supports Measure M on Tuesday ballot in Monterey County. M would allow some limited development, but preserves most of the land for open space recreation. The 500 plus acres is now designated for housing and light industrial use by the Fort Ord Reuse Authority.
Smith says, “It’s as the landscape was perhaps a hundred years ago and it’s public land right now and it’s something we really need to keep in the public hands for public use.”
Sid Williams addresses a rally at the nearby site of a proposed Veteran’s cemetery. The rally is a launch for the Measure K campaign. Williams is Secretary of the United Veteran’s Council. Measure K is an opposing ballot initiative to Measure M. K would maintain the 500 acres for development and add conditions that make it easier to build the proposed Monterey Downs complex—an Equestrian themed housing and business development and horse racing track.
Local veterans have long planned to build a cemetery adjacent to the land in dispute. They have raised some of the money to begin construction. But need more to complete and maintain it. So they want to sell a portion of their land they call the endowment parcel.
Veterans and Measure K supporters say for the endowment parcel to have any value – development needs to happen on the 500 acres.
Williams says, “The only way we have to raise that kind of money is the sale of the endowment parcel which is part of the overall cemetery parcel.”
On Tuesday if both measures pass, the one with the most yes votes wins.
But not everyone sees it as a choice between the two measures. Seaside City Manager John Dunn is opposed to both. He contends the land in question is not in public hands but under the control of his city and Monterey County.
Seaside filed suit to keep both measures off the ballot but the court dismissed the suit. So recently the City passed a resolution supporting the current Fort Ord Reuse Plan in effect urging voters to reject both M and Measure K.
Dunn says both measures take away the city’s power to make land use decisions
Dunn says, “We contend that a more careful…delivery process…occurs when you have deliberations by our board of architectural review, by our planning commission, by our staff and city council than when you have voters who in many cases are relatively uninformed about these matters make that determination.”
Jason Campbell is a supporter of Measure M. He says M is necessary because politicians are trying to “fast track” Monterey Downs. Besides, he says, when citizens disagree with their representatives, they have a right intervene.
Campbell says, “If elected officials don’t make the decisions the public thinks they should be making there are certain political action we should take. And one of the things is petition the government. And so luckily we have that power.”
On Tuesday voters will voice their opinion. But it may not end there. Both the city of Seaside and Measure M backers have suggested litigation if things don’t turn out their way.