We encourage voters to spend time studying two local ballot measures on re-zoning for hotels and a $900 million school bond

This is an opinion of Morgan Hill Life

Voters have two local measures to consider in the March 3 primary election. After careful consideration of the pros and cons of both ballot initiatives, Morgan Hill Life recommends a “yes” vote on both Measure A and Measure I. If passed, they will add to the overall quality of life for everyone in our community.

Measure A was placed on the ballot by the city of Morgan Hill after a petition drive last spring initiated by several local hoteliers. It amends zoning for the Madrone Village Shopping Center (located where Madrone Parkway and Cochrane Road intersect) to allow hotels to be constructed. Measure I is a bond initiative placed on the ballot by the Morgan Hill Unified School District. It seeks $900 million in funding over 30 years to maintain and upgrade school facilities.

Opponents of Measure A include several of the city’s current hotel owners. They claim competition from an additional 206 rooms at the two new hotels proposed for the site will reduce their customer base because there is not enough demand for rooms. Competition for guests will also come from new hotels in southern San Jose from people who travel to Silicon Valley for business. The city insists amending the zoning to allow hotels to be built at the site fits with the General Plan and Economic Blueprint. Staff say the two hotels, if built, will encourage more travelers to stay in Morgan Hill. They project the hotels will bring to city coffers an additional $800,000 a year to pay for services such as public safety.

We recommend Measure A for two reasons. The first is economic. We see the South Valley increasingly becoming a tourism destination, especially when the Granada Hotel opens in downtown Morgan Hill next year as the region’s first “boutique hotel.” It will focus on attracting clientele seeking wine-tasting, fine dining and other relaxation activities here. Through widespread marketing and promotion paid for by TBID dollars, as Morgan Hill gains a reputation as a fun and friendly getaway spot, more tourists will travel here for overnight trips, providing existing hotels with customers.

We also support Measure A to protect the democratic process. We believe it is inappropriate and sets a bad precedent to use the referendum system to try to eliminate business competitors. It goes against the spirit of the voting law to use a ballot measure to overturn the decision made by elected officials (in this case the Morgan Hill City Council) for a specific economic advantage. It also cost Morgan Hill taxpayers $94,000 to put the measure on the ballot. That money could have been spent paying for public safety or other community benefits. The developers have tried unsuccessfully for years to attract a grocery store at the location, but the food market here is saturated.

In regard to Measure I, we had a bit of “sticker shock” at the large amount the school district is requesting. In 2012, voters approved $198 million in Measure G bonds to pay for facility fixes as well as bring schools updated information technology systems. Much good was achieved by the responsible use of that funding. Unfortunately, Measure G can’t sustain the upkeep and upgrades of school facilities through the mid-century point. Every public school in the district — and Charter School of Morgan Hill — has a long list of repairs and upgrades to make sure students have quality facilities.

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Measure I is intended to be a single authorization by voters to fund facility maintenance over the course of 30 years. This will actually save residential and business property owners money. The school district will not need to come back every decade or so with another bond request, adding to the tax bill. Last year, the MHUSD received the highest levels of credit worthiness from both Moody’s Investors Services and S&P Global Rating, giving the district leverage to keep the bond rates low, saving taxpayers money.

Like everyone else, we’re not thrilled about seeing our property taxes rise — by about $47 for every $100,000 of county-assessed value. But there are many payoffs from Measure I. The first is that good schools spur demand for homes. The bond, if passed, will pay back property owners with increased value of their homes. Good schools also help promote public safety. When students are in the classroom learning, they’re not causing trouble through vandalism, gangs or other criminal activity. Good schools generate pride in a community, encouraging more involvement by residents and businesses in promoting academic excellence. Making MHUSD facilities more energy efficient and classrooms more comfortable will also save money on PG&E bills as well as help to recruit and retain teachers.

We encourage voters to spend time studying measures A and I. We believe when they do, marking “yes” on the ballot on both choices will help protect and enhance the quality of life of the Morgan Hill community.

Morgan Hill Life Editorial
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