Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Letter to Morgan Hill about the Institute Golf Course

(We sent this letter today about the latest problem with the Institute Golf Course in Morgan Hill. -Brian)

August 29, 2007
Morgan Hill City Council

Re: Agenda Item #4 – Institute Golf Course

Dear Mayor Tate and City Councilmembers;

The Committee for Green Foothills has reviewed the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society letter regarding the Institute Golf Course, and we endorse its contents and recommendations.

Speaking as someone who has followed this issue for four years, I can also attest to the frustration of watching a sophisticated and wealthy set of individuals get away with environmental murder repeatedly. The City’s entire response for the last ten years since the golf course was illegally constructed has simply been to legalize what has already, illegally been done to the property. This latest manifestation now is to legalize the landowners’ decision to ignore mitigation deadlines, replacing the old deadlines with new ones and old mitigation standards with new, undefined concepts that call for completely –unearned trust in the City’s vigilance. With little hope, we request that the City this time take a different stance, reject the staff recommendation, require immediate compliance with the numerous mitigations that can be complied with immediately, and bring an enforcement action against the landowner requiring them to stop using the golf course until all other mitigations have been complied with.

It may be relevant to bring into the open the rumors that have circulated that Frys may move its corporate headquarters to Morgan Hill, as the rumors might also explain the consistent kid-glove treatment that this Frys-associated landowner has received from the City. Even if the rumors had some basis in fact, they do not justify the landowners’ noncompliance or the City’s non-enforcement. Equally important though is that the rumors appear to be wrong. I first heard them over three years ago, and I’m sure they circulated for longer than that, yet there is no sign of movement to Morgan Hill. I am concerned that these background rumors can influence decisonmaking here and in other cities could possibly be hearing similar rumors. If the City wishes to do some kind of deal, it should do it in the open.

Finally, to supplement mention of the many legal flaws described in the Audubon letter, we point out that CEQA acknowledges the existence and significance of temporary impacts, so the failure to put mitigations in place in a timely fashion is a significant impact that must be analyzed. In addition, “take” under the ESA is generally recognized as a significant impact under CEQA, and acknowledging the take means a Supplemental EIR must be prepared. If the City is permitting “take” without requiring the relevant state and federal ESA permits first, or if it is permitting such take for a longer period than anticipated and analyzed in the original EIR, then a new and unanalyzed significant impact is present and requires at least a Supplemental EIR.

Please contact us if you have any questions.

Brian A. Schmidt
Legislative Advocate, Santa Clara County

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