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RMA approves new North Gate traffic flow, keeps turn onto Lago

Published Monday, April 25, 2005

Despite earlier recommendations to the contrary, the Rancho Murieta Association board voted Tuesday night to keep the left turn from Murieta Parkway onto Lago Drive in the design for the new North Gate.

The board approved the relocation of the gate on the recommendation of the Ad Hoc New North Gate/School Access Committee, chaired by Director Mike Martel.

The decision allows construction of the new gate to proceed under provisions of the Mutual Benefit Agreement, signed by the RMA and the Pension Trust Fund of the Operating Engineers. The PTF will provide $1.4 million in funding for a new guard building, lane configuration and landscaping at the North entrance.

Over the years, both the Community Services District and the RMA have made replacement of the gate a priority because of traffic issues and security concerns.

The design approved by the RMA board on Tuesday is the third of four options that were developed three years ago. It has two lanes for residents proceeding up the Parkway, a visitors' lane, and a dedicated left-turn lane to Lago Drive for residents only. The guard building will be moved up the center of the Parkway to the beginning of the intersection with Lago to increase queuing space at the gate and avoid backups on Highway 16. The turn on Lago would occur before reaching the guard station.

Except for retaining the left on Lago, the design is the same as one recommended about two years ago by the original RMA/CSD Ad Hoc Gate Committee, the Joint Security Committee and the CSD board. In that design, the left on Lago was eliminated for safety reasons and to decrease traffic on Lago and Pera, two streets that now receive an estimated 30 percent of gate traffic. The final decision belongs to the RMA as the owner of the gate.

The four options were developed from a CSD-funded traffic study of the North Gate and an all-encompassing 2001 RMA/CSD-financed community traffic study that considered traffic flow at build-out on the North with or without a third gate at Escuela Drive. Traffic issues on the South at build-out were also evaluated in the study.

At the time the four options were developed, numerous public meetings were held to solicit public input. Presentations were made at televised RMA meetings, including the 2002 annual meeting. A petition to keep the entrance to Lago behind the gate and another petition to close off Lago entirely were presented to the RMA board for consideration as part of the public input process.

When the RMA board declined to vote on the gate alternatives in July 2003 and decided to disband the ad hoc committee, board members said additional information was needed as well as more public input before a decision could be made.

The ad hoc committee formed in January made its decision with no additional public input or information. Talk about closing off the turn to Lago on a trial basis to measure the effect on other streets never turned into action.

The CSD was specifically excluded from the new committee when the RMA board voted to form it. Security Chief Greg Remson was subsequently included as a non-voting member. He was not present at the meeting where Option Three was chosen because he wasn't notified of the meeting, he reported to the CSD board last week. The CSD board did not comment on the RMA's choice of options.

From the committee's beginning, it seemed likely that the turn on Lago would be retained. RMA President Paul Gumbinger, a member of the committee, suggested that was the likely outcome when he attended the CSD's goal-planning session in January.

At the Feb. 9 meeting of the ad hoc committee, Betty Warner, a committee member who went on record in 2002 and 2003 as wanting to keep the turn on Lago, described that choice as "a no-brainer." Gumbinger remarked, "No one wants to close Lago."

Martel said he wanted to see an exit lane added at the North Gate because there are now early-morning backups leaving the community. Remson pointed out that having additional traffic making the left on Lago as the community grows would contribute to congestion and create traffic jams.

Acknowledging the problem, the committee said the turn lane could be coned off during peak times. (In 2003, Martel, before joining the RMA board, suggested that closing of Lago be tested for 30 days before any decision was made. The RMA did not act on the suggestion.)

Committee member Adam Persily said in a recent interview that the cross-traffic issue was not viewed as "a credible problem" by the committee members. "It created too much of an inconvenience for all those who do make that left turn," he said, explaining the committee's view.

At Tuesday's RMA meeting, Martel said CSD General Manager Ed Crouse had spoken with him about the CSD's concerns regarding the cross-traffic issue and the increased traffic burden development would bring to Pera and a portion of Lago.

Martel said Crouse's comments showed "he didn't care about the existing residents here. He cared about the new residents building homes here. … I think his behavior is inappropriate."

The board voted 6-1 on the North Gate configuration. Director Elliot Sevier, in casting the dissenting vote, said he believed closing Lago to left turns from the Parkway made for a better and safer traffic flow and was in keeping with assessments made by traffic engineers.

RMDCCC makes requests of board

Members of the Rancho Murieta Development Concerned Citizens Committee asked the board to consider getting two legal opinions.

RMDCCC member Ted Hart asked the board for a legal opinion regarding asking the county to get a legal opinion from county counsel about whether the county could require future development to annex to the RMA.

RMDCCC member Terris Hanson supported Hart's request and asked the board to get an additional opinion from RMA counsel about the validity of the Mutual Benefit Agreement between the RMA and the Pension Trust Fund of the Operating Engineers. Under the terms of the MBA, the RMA has been deeded park sites at Calero, Clementia, Stonehouse and the upper Parkway, and complied with plans to build a new North Gate at developer expense.

The RMDCCC requests demonstrated a departure from a position the group adopted about two years ago during a dispute with previous RMA boards over the approval and signing of the MBA. At that time, the RMDCCC said it would bypass the RMA board and deal directly with the county on development issues.

Rob Schwartz, a Murieta North resident since last fall who has spoken at the recent county-facilitated meetings between the RMDCCC and the North developers, said he wanted to see the MBA and an earlier, related document, the Letter Agreement, rescinded. He threatened the three members of the current board who voted to sign the MBA with recall action if they failed to support this stance.

President Paul Gumbinger said Hart's and Hanson's requests could be placed on the agenda for discussion at the May board meeting.

Joint Security Committee restructuring approved

After a "frank and open discussion" with CSD President John Merchant, Director Wayne Kuntz and CSD General Manager Ed Crouse, President Paul Gumbinger and Directors Elliot Sevier and Jack Cooper recommended a proposal to restructure the Joint Security Committee. Membership would be limited to three RMA directors -- Sevier, Cooper and Dick Cox -- and two CSD directors, as yet unnamed.

The proposal that emerged from the meeting called for having the option to close meetings of the restructured committee to the public.

Director Pamela Haines termed closing the meetings "inappropriate" and Director Dick Cox said he would attend one meeting but would not be a member of the committee if the meetings were closed.

Gumbinger said the consensus at the meeting with the CSD representatives was the Joint Security meetings needed to be closed to generate frank discussions between the two entities about security issues and goals. Sevier supported having closed meetings and pointed out that any policy recommendations would go to the respective boards where they would be discussed publicly. Neither organization would have a quorum of directors on the committee.

The board voted 5-2 to accept the proposal as written. Cox and Haines cast dissenting votes because of the closed-meeting issue.

At the CSD board meeting Wednesday night, the board approved the restructuring but eliminated the provision for closed meetings on a 3-2 vote. CSD Directors Mary Brennan and Dick Taylor, who cast the dissenting votes, favored keeping the present structure, which has offered an opportunity for public participation as well as the participation of other governing entities -- Murieta Village, the Villas and the Country Club.

The last Joint Security Committee under the present set-up is scheduled for Tuesday, May 3, at 8:15 a.m. at the RMA Building. The restructured committee is expected to meet in June.

In brief

  • The board approved extending the voting period for the CC&R amendment concerning driveway parking and other vehicle-related issues another 30 days, through May. As of Tuesday, 724 ballots had been received, 176 short of the number needed.
  • The board authorized the two RMA Parks Committee representatives to vote to make Interim General Manager Danise Hetland the project manager for the river crossing project until a new general manager is hired and to release funds for the fabrication of the superstructure of the bridge. Hetland said two of the three permits for the project have been issued and the third is "99 percent" certain. The project is funded by developers. The Parks Committee meeting takes place Wednesday, April 27, at 8 a.m. at the RMA Building.



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