Proposed Urban Limit Line threatens scenic land, doesn’t protect it

The next time you drive home from San Francisco pay special
attention to your surroundings. For much of the journey, the
scenery is monotonous: sound walls, freeway signs, industrial
buildings, auto malls, more industrial buildings, more auto malls,
etc. It’s hard to tell whether you’re in San Carlos or Belmont,
Sunnyvale or Mountain View. It isn’t until Highway 85 drops you
back onto 101 South that suddenly the congestion and concrete of
Silicon Valley fades away behind you.
The next time you drive home from San Francisco pay special attention to your surroundings. For much of the journey, the scenery is monotonous: sound walls, freeway signs, industrial buildings, auto malls, more industrial buildings, more auto malls, etc. It’s hard to tell whether you’re in San Carlos or Belmont, Sunnyvale or Mountain View. It isn’t until Highway 85 drops you back onto 101 South that suddenly the congestion and concrete of Silicon Valley fades away behind you. Finally, you have a chance to collect your thoughts among rain-greened hills and productive farmlands. Ah, home at last.

But now the scenic lands that keep Morgan Hill distinct are at risk. Once these lands are gone, they are gone forever and Morgan Hill will be starting down the same path that many communities to the north have already followed.

This Monday evening, the City’s Urban Limit Line/ Greenbelt Study Committee will present its proposed Urban Limit Line to the community. The Committee is proposing to create a new line that would make hundreds of acres of currently protected farmland vulnerable to development.

This is a bad idea. Morgan Hill already has an urban growth boundary that provides enough land for, at the very least, another twenty years of development. There is no need to draw another line outside the boundary we already have. That won’t permanently protect land. Instead, it will open up protected land to development. The way to ensure the greenbelt stays safe is to keep the line where it is.

If we draw an expanded line, some people stand to make a lot of money by developing their land. But that’s not what this process should be about. This should be about Morgan Hill residents deciding how to plan for the future of our community, and how to keep our community’s rural character intact.

It’s true we’re not immune from the affordable housing shortage that’s afflicting the entire Bay Area. We do need to build more housing. It’s also true that Morgan Hill needs additional tax revenues to support community needs like police and road maintenance. But we don’t have to pave our natural areas and working farms to do that. In fact, building sprawl development out in our greenbelt will be a drain on city coffers: building new roads, water lines and sewers won’t be cheap.

There’s a better way to build. Morgan Hill can break away from the Peninsula’s pattern of endless sprawl development by directing new growth inward. We can develop the plentiful vacant land within city limits, and allow higher densities downtown. It makes sense to build here in our existing city.

The infrastructure is already in place and CalTrain is nearby. More compact development will mean a more lively, walkable, safe downtown. Providing housing within the city will also mean fewer long commutes between work and home, and less traffic clogging our roads.

Investing in our city is good for our community, and good for our greenbelt.

What’s not good for our greenbelt is opening part of it to new development now in the name of permanent protection later. We should not accept this attempt to develop the land we’ve already protected.

Morgan Hill’s City Council should hold the line on sprawl and say no to this proposed Urban Limit Line. I urge my fellow Morgan Hill residents to come to the meeting on Monday and tell them so.

Michele Beasley is a Morgan Hill resident and South Bay field representative for the Greenbelt Alliance.

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