WATSONVILLE -- Despite the threat of litigation, the Watsonville City Council on Tuesday approved its blueprint for development during the next two decades.

Watsonville Vista 2030, what's known as a general plan, has been in the works since 2004, but the city's first version was sent back for revision after a successful lawsuit challenged it.

The latest version attempts to resolve issues related to potential building in a rural area west of the Watsonville Municipal Airport, but disagreements remain between the city and the plaintiffs.

"We've gotten to the point where we have to agree to disagree," said Marcela Tavantzis, interim community development director, recommending the council move forward.

Pilots, who with a neighborhood advocacy group, Friends of Buena Vista, filed the initial lawsuit, urged the council to hold off approving the plan until state aviation officials could take a look. They also want the city to purchase properties near runway safety zones to forestall any future development.

"We've worked with the city for a long time, and worked out most of the issues," said Corralitos resident John Randolph, speaking on behalf of the Watsonville Pilots Association. "Tie up this loose end."

In a letter presented to the council Tuesday, lawyer William Parkin, representing Friends of Buena Vista, objected to population projections on which the plan is based, and which he argues may require greater development than is necessary.


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Councilwoman Nancy Bilicich, who voted against adopting the plan, expressed concern about the potential for more litigation.

"We've already spent $2 million on legal fees," Bilicich said. "I don't want that to happen."

Tavantzis said she was confident the revisions met the judge's orders and would be upheld or she wouldn't have recommended approval.

"You can't stop someone from suing you," said Mayor Lowell Hurst. "You can only take preventative moves."

The plan provides for the development of 4,100 homes, down from 5,700 in the original version. It also aims to encourage the development of 2,500 new jobs by setting aside land for commercial and industrial use. It also calls for infill development, permitting, for example, the transformation of Freedom Boulevard into a more pedestrian-friendly mix of residential and commercial development.

Councilman Daniel Dodge said the city had delayed long enough, stalling, for example, potential projects of Freedom Boulevard.

"This is a visionary approach," he said. "We need to do this for our children who don't have a voice."

Follow Sentinel reporter Donna Jones on Twitter at Twitter.com/DonnaJonesSCS