Michele Beasley

Michele Beasley

Morgan Hill releases EIR and agricultural preservation program

The continuing saga of the future of Morgan Hill’s Southeast Quadrant (SEQ) started a new chapter on Friday with the long-awaited release of the draft environmental impact report (DEIR). Earlier this month, Morgan Hill also released the Draft Agricultural Lands Preservation Program. This activity comes in the middle of the City’s General Plan update.

The timing of these simultaneous processes makes things interesting.

The 2001 General Plan clearly called for a Greenbelt Plan to create a permanent buffer between San Jose and San Martin. Unfortunately, the committee tasked with establishing an urban limit line (ULL) to create a greenbelt failed to achieve this vision. Nowhere was the establishment of a permanent greenbelt more contentious than in the Southeast Quadrant, 1,250 acres of mostly working farms abutting San Martin. Comprised of several SEQ landowners who had a personal stake in maximizing the development value of their land, the committee prevented the establishment of a complete ULL around the city, leaving the SEQ in limbo for the next eight years.

Now, the General Plan Advisory Committee is planning for the next 20 years without the benefit of understanding this history or reconsidering the adoption of an ULL that excludes the SEQ from development. Each general plan growth alternatives map [PDF] identifies the SEQ as a project area, but leaves out potential land uses. SEQ planning is on a separate track, excluded from the General Plan conversation—despite its significant size and greenbelt and farmland roles—as if development is a foregone conclusion.

But is it? Morgan Hill needs to address the following issues while updating its general plan:

  • What are the environmental, economic, and energy challenges ahead that the City should be preparing for now?
  • Is a greenbelt buffer that includes viable agriculture part of Morgan Hill’s future? And if so, how do we sincerely achieve this vision?
  • If the goal is to focus on downtown, then why does the City plan to annex lands on the edge of town? And what are the costs to residents for doing so?

Morgan Hill residents should be having a spirited debate around these questions, but so far, only a small group is making development decisions that impact everyone.

Preserving agricultural lands and creating thriving communities go hand in hand. We cannot continue paving over the orchards and farmland that once defined the Valley of Heart’s Delight with housing subdivisions and shopping malls. Silicon Valley has thrived on innovation—innovation that isn’t limited to technology but that can also apply to the sources of the Bay Area’s fresh, local food—like the mushrooms, cherries, and strawberries grown in Morgan Hill.

Greenbelt Alliance invites residents to review Morgan Hills draft EIR and agriculture preservation program and to speak up for your vision of a thriving, verdant community.

The next General Plan Advisory Group meets on Thursday, January 9 at 6:30pm, location to be determined.

Contact Michele Beasley for more information.

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