Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | March 11, 2008

Look before you leap

“The plural of anecdote is not data.” ~ Unknown

In a recent column, Patty Fisher of the San Jose Mercury News came to this remarkable conclusion: “It just goes to show that you can do just about anything you want in Morgan Hill – if you have enough money, prestige and time.”

That’s a heck of a conclusion to which Fisher tried to jump, based on precious little data.

Here’s the history of the golf course, as I recapped it in a February 2004 column criticizing AIM:

“The story dates back to at least to 1998, when John Fry … decided that the former Flying Lady Restaurant and its nine-hole golf course would make a fine home for his pet project, the American Institute of Mathematics.

“AIM got permission to improve the existing 40-acre golf course, but … bulldozed, graded, sodded and sandtrapped a more-than-100-acre, 18-hole golf course on the site, which may have been home to rare or endangered plants and animals.

“… The right way to do things … would have been to prepare an environmental impact report before doing any work outside the scope of the original permit. That way, any potential problems could have been identified before any damage was done.”

It was a dumb mistake. AIM officials should have known better.

However much anyone might wish it to be different, it is impossible to turn back time to before AIM exceeded the scope of its permit. Given that, the city has imposed regulations on AIM to do the best it can to conduct an after-the-fact environmental review.

At what point do we move from recriminations to reconciliation?

Fisher quotes Craig Breon of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society as making some pretty serious accusations, including that AIM has “blown” several unspecified deadlines and that “We will find again, as we always have, that the city will fall over itself to give Mr. Fry everything he wants.”

Because Fisher didn’t bother to detail the deadlines that AIM has allegedly missed, I called Morgan Hill City Manager Ed Tewes to ask about them.

He told me that the only missed deadlines are those that require the assistance of other governmental agencies like the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and AIM is not to blame. Tewes said that city officials anticipated that deadlines that require outside agency cooperation might be missed, and that’s why they built mechanisms to extend those deadlines into the plan.

If Fisher and Breon have a gripe about missed deadlines, they need to take those up with the bureaucrats at other agencies involved with the environmental review. But slamming Morgan Hill and AIM for them is unfair.

Meanwhile, word leaked recently that the PGA might bring a tournament to AIM’s golf course, possibly as soon as 2010. As a tax-paying, environment-loving, practical resident of Morgan Hill, I hope the tournament becomes a reality.

A PGA tournament will require assessing and mitigating environmental impacts, as it should. Clearly, it can be done. After all, if a golf tournament can be held in the environmentally sensitive Pebble Beach area, one can be held at AIM’s facility.

Tewes said that an application to amend the golf course’s planned unit development to allow a golf tournament would trigger an environmental review. We’ll know that PGA and AIM officials are serious about bringing a tournament to AIM’s golf course when a PUD amendment application is filed.

I’m not hoping for a PGA tournament because I’m a golf fan – I’m not – but because it would be a huge, much-needed economic boost for my community.

Bank of America reported that the Champions Tour it sponsors is responsible for bringing “… more than $27 million annually to local, state and national economies, according to a new economic impact study.” Of that, $3 million goes to the economy of the local community hosting the event, the study’s authors said.

A PGA tournament at the AIM conference center would draw visitors, media, golf pros and tournament staff who would spend money in Morgan Hill’s restaurants, hotels, gas stations and stores.

It would introduce a whole new set of people to Morgan Hill’s abundant charms. Perhaps some of those might be inspired to visit again. Others might decide to make Morgan Hill their home or business headquarters. A few might be lucky enough to make that goal a reality.

The rest will have to settle for pretending during tournament week that they live in Morgan Hill.

“People who jump to conclusions rarely alight on them.”
~ British historian Philip Guedalla



  1. The PGA holds an annual tournament in nearby Norton Ma and I can tell that only “problem” is a extra traffic at a major highway intersection for 4 days. The positive impact it has not only moneywise is well worth it ! Good lukc to Morgan Hill

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