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November 28, 2022

East MH property owner mulls residential development

Early concept shows 13 single-family homes on 8.4 acres

An east Morgan Hill property owner has submitted conceptual plans to rezone a vacant 8.4-acre site to allow the construction of up to 13 new homes.

The Morgan Hill Planning Commission on April 12 conducted a “preliminary review” of a possible General Plan amendment that would pave the way for further approvals for more density on the property, which is owned by the Puliafico family. No project has been formally submitted or approved for the property.

The land is located just off the northwestern end of Saddleback Drive, near the intersection of East Dunne Avenue. The property is currently zoned Residential Estate, a lower-density designation that allows lot sizes of a minimum of one acre per home. The owner is considering requesting a change in zoning to Residential Detached Low, which would allow lot sizes of up to 20,000 square feet per home, according to city staff.

Conceptual plans presented by Vince Burgos, a consultant for the property owner, show 13 homes on a future new roadway on the northern edge of the site. The project drawings also show the cul-de-sac on Saddleback Drive would be completed, allowing two of the homes to be accessed on that street.

But it will be a while before a project is proposed and approved on the site. A General Plan amendment—which requires approval from the city council—would be the first step in building the type of project envisioned by the owner, according to Morgan Hill Senior Planner Tiffany Brown.

The project would also require a zoning amendment, which requires additional review from the planning commission, then a “final review” by the council, Brown told the commission April 12. After that, a tentative project map and design permit would need city approval.

The proposal would also be subject to an environmental review of the site, city staff said.

The owner of the vacant property in question has requested similar approvals for a housing project in the past. In 2018, the owner requested similar General Plan and zoning amendments for the site, but they were rejected by the commission and, later, the city council.

An early conceptual drawing shows what a 13-lot single-family housing project might look like on a property off Saddleback Drive. Photo: Contributed

Burgos told the commission on April 12 that circumstances are different now. He said the owner’s plans are more clear now, and the state legislature has passed new housing regulations since then that have changed the development environment.

“The dialogue at that (city council) meeting (in 2019) was they were not comfortable moving forward not knowing what we’ll be getting on that site,” Burgos said. “Since then, the city requires we go through with this preliminary review, and now we have a plan that you can really see what you’re getting.”

Also, since 2019 the state passed a housing law known as SB 9, which gives residential property owners more rights to subdivide their land into multiple parcels.

Burgos said the way the Puliafico family has proposed developing their property off Saddleback, the lots would be more difficult to further subdivide after they are sold.

At the April 12 planning review, some neighboring homeowners spoke against the project. They cited potential new traffic concerns in the growing east Morgan Hill neighborhoods, and a disruption of the scenic landscape.

“I want to be able to walk up the neighborhood or walk up the hills and have a rural setting,” said Kelly Funk, a resident of the nearby Heritage Green subdivision. “When you start compacting these units (onto the property) there is nowhere for people to go—nowhere for us to escape.”

Commissioner Laura Gonzalez Escoto urged the developer to stay in close communication with the neighboring property owners in the hope that plans for the property can be refined in a way that most find it more acceptable for the location.

“This is a highly visible site where you ought to be working together,” Escoto said. “This would require much more communication among property owners.”

Burgos, representing the Puliafico family, did not offer details on when or if the owner will submit a General Plan or zoning amendment request.

Properties to the south and west of the site allow higher housing densities in the Morgan Hill city limits, according to city staff. To the north and west is rural zoning in Santa Clara County’s jurisdiction, and just to the northeast is an open space parcel.

Michael Moore
Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.

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