Probably the most interesting meeting to date about the proposed Urban Limit Line (ULL) in Morgan Hill happened on Tuesday. The ULL is supposed to indicate either the permanent limit to the city's growth, or its limit in fifty years, depending on the person describing it. This contrasts with the city's current Urban Growth Boundary, which limits growth for a 20-year period. Environmentalists are generally not happy about the ULL, as it seems to increase the pressure to develop. The city has been holding out the prospect of a greenbelt and open space conservation in order meet some environmental goals, but whether the tradeoff is worth it remains unclear.
The biggest fireworks will concern an 1,200 acre area to the southeast of the current city boundaries, most of which is being farmed. I have been attending meetings of an advisory sub-committee, which appeared likely to recommend that this area be brought within the ULL, and later have an "Area Plan" developed that will recommend open-space preservation.
Somewhat to my surprise, the sub-committee appeared to agree with my argument on Tuesday that moving the ULL first while determining the Area Plan later would give all the negotiating leverage to developers. The subcommittee is now rethinking that idea, while we environmentalists ponder our options.
After the meeting, I was surrounded by a mix of landowners and developers who were less than happy about my comments. We ended up talking for nearly half an hour, and I re-discovered something I've seen numerous times before, that the people on the opposite side of our environmental conflicts can be perfectly nice and decent. One of them even invited me out to their land, and I hope to take up the offer.
The issue that we environmentalists have to remember though is that we support the environment because it's important to do so, regardless of whether the other side has the best or worst of intentions.
(Morgan Hill provides additional information on the ULL process here.)