Opinions sought on urban limit line

Morgan Hill
– The time is here. After two years of committee work, closely
watched by interested property owners, it is now time for the
public to weigh in on Morgan Hill’s proposed greenbelt and urban
limit line (ULL).
Morgan Hill – The time is here. After two years of committee work, closely watched by interested property owners, it is now time for the public to weigh in on Morgan Hill’s proposed greenbelt and urban limit line (ULL).

Working with Santa Clara County, the city wants to find out if the public still wants parts of the city preserved from development in a greenbelt. It is also asking if they want an Urban Limit Line. Both were approved by voters in the mid 1980s.

Critical to the plan’s ultimate approval is deciding how to compensate land owners in greenbelt areas who would be giving up the right to develop their land to its fullest potential.

An ULL designates the ultimate edge of where the city would be allowed to grow over the next 50 to 60 years. Land inside the line would remain subject to city zoning regulations and have the benefit of city services. Property outside will be unincorporated and under the control of Santa Clara County and would not have access to city services, thus limiting development.

The citizen-designed General Plan of 1990 and the update of 2000 recommended the ULL study.

Mayor Dennis Kennedy, who headed up the committee, said a greenbelt and urban limit line have been important to him for years.

“In light of the pressure for growth coming south from Coyote Valley and San Martin incorporating into a city, we need a greenbelt so we don’t become the continuous urban sprawl that Los Angeles is,” he said.

The line follows the city’s urban growth boundary except north of Cochrane Road, the Diana/Main/Hill roads area and – most contentious of all – the southeast quadrant a 1,250-acre area bordered by San Pedro Avenue to the north, Highway 101 to the west, Carey Road to the east and Maple Avenue to the south. The quadrant contains property used for agriculture, large homesteads and undeveloped land. Under consideration is a 200-acre business park area near the freeway, commercial areas and new and existing residential development.

Who would pay infrastructure and improvement costs – property owners, taxpayers or a combination of both – was of concern and a special subcommittee of five was set up to investigate the southeast issue.

The draft plan does not include a final plan for the southeast quadrant.

Committee member and property owner Jan Guglielmo said the committee worked hard to draw the line around most of the city and she expects most people will approve. However, Guglielmo is not satisfied with the subcommittee’s southeast quadrant suggestion that 500 out of the 1,250 acres be reserved for greenbelt.

“That’s too many acres,” Guglielmo said. “No other area had to give up property except in the southeast quadrant. The greenbelt is a wonderful idea, but there is no money to pay for it.”

Guglielmo said that, with the Aquatics Center, the soccer complex and the water district percolation ponds, the area has enough open space.

She is worried that many of the land owners are Japanese-Americans who were interned and lost their land during World War II, had returned to farming and now face a financial loss because they can’t sell and the city has no money to buy.

The southeast area, she said, is flat, not under the dam and perfect for development.

“Why is that area being excluded when developers can build anywhere else,” Guglielmo said.

Former Community Development Director David Bischoff, hired as a consultant after his April 2004 retirement to see the ULL plan through, said he hopes to get information from the workshop.

“To date we’ve received input from the southeast property owners,” Bischoff said, “but we have heard very little from residents in the rest of the community.”

The greenbelt would be located outside the ULL with the purpose of separating Morgan Hill from San Jose and San Martin. It would provide a permanent open space.

The draft plan stipulates that greenbelt land use be restricted to agriculture, parks, sparse and low-impact residential and other open space uses calling for minimal improvements.

The committee has developed guidelines for dealing with the property purchase issue. Property could be bought outright for preservation or a conservation easement on the land could be purchased instead, allowing the owner to continue using the property under approved open space guidelines.

The public is invited to a workshop on the proposal at 7pm Monday at the Morgan Hill Community Center. Following the workshop, the ULL Committee will meet March 21, at 7pm at the center to review comments and consider its final recommendations.

Copies of the report can be read or picked up at the Planning Division at City Hall, 17555 Peak Ave. or call 779-7247. Details: www.morganhill.ca.gov or 779-7247.

ULL principles

• Should be the ultimate limit of urban development

• Should be continuous line around city

• Should follow roads, parcel lines or clear indicators

• Should be located outside the Urban Growth Boundary

• May be located within the city limits to include open space land

• Similar areas should be treated in consistent fashion unless conditions warrant otherwise

• Feathering, between higher urban and lower rural densities, occurs at edges to buffer, should occur within city limits

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