Yesterday, the Sixth District Court of Appeal issued an unanimous decision affirming the right of voters to exercise the power of referendum. Asit Panwala, attorney for the Morgan Hill Hotel Coalition argued that the Court of Appeal needed to reverse the trial court’s decision preventing voters from rejecting one zoning designation when several others would equally conform to an amended general plan. Morgan Hill’s choice of zoning would have provided a financial windfall of two million dollars to out-of-town hotel developer. The City argued that the voters could not reject their choice of zoning.

The City had relied on DeBottari v. City of Norco, a Fourth Appellate Division case, to argue that the voters could not choose leave in place an inconsistent zoning because it is the same as “enacting” invalid zoning. Panwala argued that the logic of DeBottari was flawed and the Court of Appeal agreed. The City of Morgan Hill will now be ordered to repeal the zoning ordinance or place it on the ballot for voter approval. Panwala is ecstatic that the voters will ultimately have the final word as the Constitution requires.


Decision attached. H043426