Council certifies Madrone petition

Officials will decide between repeal, referendum May

In January, the City Council unanimously approved two hotels to be built in the Madrone business park. The decision has resulted in a months-long battle between existing hoteliers, the city and the project developers.

Now the council has certified the Santa Clara County’s projected signature count for a petition that was circulated by hoteliers in Morgan Hill. The petition demands that the council either repeal the ordinance that allows the two new hotels on Madrone Parkway, or place the question on an upcoming election ballot for the voters to decide.

The petition received a projected signature count of 3,176 valid signatures. In a unanimous decision, the council certified the county registrar of voters’ findings on April 17 at a special meeting.

At a meeting on May 15, the council will hear a staff report and either decide to overturn their previous approval for the hotels or put the decision on a ballot for all Morgan Hill registered voters.

The April 17 special meeting occurred directly following the council’s regularly scheduled meeting. Morgan Hill Communication and Engagement Officer Maureen Tobin said this was because the agenda had already been posted for the Wednesday meeting.

“The certification needed to take place at the next regular city council meeting directly following our notification from the [Registrar of Voters]. We received the notification from the ROV after the agenda had already been posted for (the April 17) meeting, but before the meeting had occurred,” Tobin told the Times. “That is why the item was handled as a special meeting. It occurred within the regular meeting.”

The proposed project would allow a Marriott Fairfield Suites and a Hilton Home 2 Suites on a vacant property at the corner of Madrone Parkway and Woodview Avenue. The council’s original vote was to allow an additional use to the Madrone Village, as originally the space had been zoned for a larger commercial retailer, like a grocery store. The developer, Toeinskoetter Development, has said that if the hotels are not allowed to be built, the space will remain empty.

The city has argued the project would increase the amount of Transient Occupancy Tax revenue that is collected—money which goes to roads and public safety. However, owners of established local hotels have consistently opposed the projects, saying TOT would be driven down because of a surplus in rooms.

If the council decides to put the decision to a vote, it would either appear as a special election or on the November 2020 ballot. A special election would have to occur more than 88 days after the decision was made. The city estimated in the April staff report that a special election held in November 2019 could cost the city $960,000 to $1.4 million.

Asit Panwala, a lawyer whose parents own the Comfort Inn in Morgan Hill, has been speaking on behalf of hoteliers. He told the Times the number of signatures verified shows the will of the voters in the city. “I think that just shows that a lot of voters felt like this was an issue for them and they’d like to decide for themselves,” Panwala said.

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