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Morgan Hill
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September 27, 2022

Mayor rules out more car dealerships near Ford

Some good news Wednesday for neighbors living near the proposed
Ford dealership on Condit Road
– the Ford store may be the only one. A parcel of land just
north of the Ford site that several City Council members once hoped
would host up to 10 auto dealerships, will not, if the council
respects a promise made this week by Mayor Dennis Kennedy to County
Supervisor Don Gage. Since each such d
ealership traditionally brings in about $250,000 in sales taxes
annually, the potential loss to the general fund is
significant.
Some good news Wednesday for neighbors living near the proposed Ford dealership on Condit Road – the Ford store may be the only one.

A parcel of land just north of the Ford site that several City Council members once hoped would host up to 10 auto dealerships, will not, if the council respects a promise made this week by Mayor Dennis Kennedy to County Supervisor Don Gage. Since each such dealership traditionally brings in about $250,000 in sales taxes annually, the potential loss to the general fund is significant.

The city had requested of the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO – a county agency), on which Gage sits, that the 19-acre Kubo/Patel parcel, now a mushroom farm, be brought into the city limits and Urban Service Area. The land, between Condit Road, Highway 101 and Diana Avenue, is zoned for office/industrial, not auto dealerships, according to Jim Rowe, planning manager for the city.

The concession led to a 3-2 approval in favor of the request. Susan Vicklund-Wilson, a Morgan Hill attorney also on the commission, voted no; she was out of the area Thursday and unavailable for comment.

LAFCO is a state-mandated agency set up to oversee the boundaries of cities and special districts. Such activities encourage orderly boundaries, discourage urban sprawl, and preserve agricultural and open space lands.

Gage said Thursday that the board approved the city’s request to allow annexation of the land – against county staff recommendation – but gained a promise from Kennedy not to allow any more dealerships than Ford.

“There are only two parcels of land that are zoned in the (Morgan Hill) general plan for office/industrial,” Gage said. “And that (the Diana/Patel/Kubo property) was one of them.” Another reason, he said, was because the city has a well on the property for control purposes.

“I made very clear to them,” Gage said, referring to city officials, “that this (his pro vote) was because it was one of those two properties and that it must remain that way (zoned office/industrial) and that they would take the auto dealership out of that area.

“The mushroom people want to get out of the business but, it had better stay office/industrial and not become a car dealership.” If he had not received such assurances, Gage said he would have followed staff recommendation and voted against the request.

Kennedy attended the LAFCO meeting as did several residents who live near the site.

Originally the city had hoped for up to 10 dealerships in the area but recently scaled back to just three or four.

“The city’s auto dealership policy has that site earmarked for more auto services,” Kennedy said Thursday. “I will be asking the council to consider deleting that statement from the policy.”

Opinions differ about whether a present council has any control over policy changes of future councils.

Attorney Bruce Tichinin, who is representing Scott Lynch of Gilroy’s Bob Lynch Ford, was dubious about future prospects.

“No mayor or city council person has the authority to make a promise that binds future councils,” Tichinin said Thursday. “It’s my understanding that a City Council is not required to keep the same land use designation for longer than the next two years. The potential for the auto dealership strategy for bringing in up to 10 more dealerships clearly exists longterm.

Kennedy said for a future council to change its mind would be complicated.

“The two-year limit is probably correct,” he said. “It would require changes to the general plan and the zoning and would be very difficult for any city council to make such a change.”

The mayor said both the Cochrane and Tennant intersections with Highway 101 are appropriate for auto dealerships but that he does have a preference.

“I particularly favor Cochrane,” he said.

Tichinin had another explanation for Kennedy’s decision.

“The longterm is the standard in determining whether or not to prepare an EIR. So, if the mayor made this promise in hopes of avoiding the requirement to prepare an EIR, it’s not going to have that effect,” he said.

Neighbors who live off Murphy Avenue, across a field from the Ford site, have been up in arms recently, trying to convince the council not to allow the dealership. They worry that prospective buyers will test drive unfamiliar vehicles in their neighborhoods, that lights, noise and hazardous materials stored on site will negatively affect their quality of life and their property values.

Councilwoman Hedy Chang is an advocate for the neighbors and has often voiced disapproval with auto dealerships near residential areas. Kennedy and Councilmen Larry Carr and Greg Sellers had said they approve, largely because of the sales taxes, which the city desperately needs. Sales taxes go into the general fund that pays for police, fire protection, parks and recreation services.

The Ford dealership will return to the council for a decision on Wednesday, June 18 at 7 p.m.

• LAFCO also approved a request that the city be allowed to extend water and sewer services to the restrooms at the Lake Anderson boat launch area.

Staff Report
A staff member edited this provided article.

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