John Sullivan

Develop map

Murietan John Sullivan, representing area landowners, is meeting with community officials to line up support to expand Murieta's boundaries, shown in brown, and develop in the new areas.

Plan to expand Murieta's boundaries brought to RMA board session

:: Previous coverage: Landowners propose expanding and developing Murieta to the west (June 4, 2006)

Published Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Proponents of a plan that would extend the boundaries of Rancho Murieta are taking the plan to the community to build support for changing more than 30 years of planning.

John Sullivan, a longtime resident who has served as a director on both the Rancho Murieta Association and Community Services District boards, represents property owners for Murieta West, a proposal to build a hotel, 500 homes and a 100-acre lake on about 1,200 acres that are not currently planned for development.

The project would require a change in the county's general plan, the community's master plan, and the county's urban services boundary, as well as expansion of the CSD's sphere of influence.

Sullivan went public with the plan at a Community Services District committee meeting in May.

At the CSD Improvements Committee meeting this month, Sullivan said he had met with the RMA six times on the topic and the Country Club four times, in addition to discussing the project with the CSD.

"We're feeling very good about the cooperation we've gotten from RMA, and obviously the Country Club likes the residential stand-alone custom lots for potential members," he told the committee.

At Tuesday night's RMA meeting, Sullivan made his first presentation of the project for the membership, speaking for about 20 minutes. He said residential units in Murieta West would annex to the RMA. This would extend the association beyond the present gated community, with about 400 units of housing proposed for south of Highway 16 and a 99-unit development replacing pasture land behind homes on Puerto Drive.

This would be the only portion of the Murieta West plan behind the existing gates and would use Del Cerro, an existing stub street, for access from Puerto. (See a drawing of that plan here.)

This property, like other portions of the project, is outside CSD boundaries and cannot receive water, sewer and other CSD services unless the district's sphere of influence is expanded and annexation occurs.

The CSD intends to enter into a services agreement with the Elk Grove Unified School District to supply water and sewer services for the school that will be built on the 220-acre Stonehouse Road property owned by the Frank family, one of the Murieta West property owners. (See a drawing of the Stonehouse-area plans here.)

The Frank family offered to donate 15 acres of the property for the school earlier this year as part of a proposal that relocates a section of Stonehouse Road to create a new intersection with Highway 16 at Lone Pine Drive.

Some of the property in the Murieta West proposal -- the Equestrian Center, the airport and the 200-acre agricultural reserve -- is within the district and already receives CSD services.

The centerpiece of the project south of Highway 16 by the airport is the 100-acre lake, which Sullivan wants the CSD to select as the community's back-up water supply during droughts, although the district has been moving toward a groundwater alternative. The lake would straddle the current district boundary, with about half the lake inside the present CSD service area and half outside. (See a drawing of that plan here.)

The 377 units for this section of the plan include more than 200 lakeside residences, mixed uses for a village center, affordable housing, and aviation and equestrian residential projects.

Sullivan said the landowners have applied to the county to have the property included in the urban services area and the general plan update, which will set the course of development in the county for the next 25 years. The update process is going on now.

The services boundary -- the county's effort to contain development -- presently comes no closer than just east of Grant Line Road. Rancho Murieta development began in the early 1970s, two decades before the boundary was drawn, and Murieta is designated as an island of development outside the boundary.

"When you look at a project of this scope, we're talking years … to get to the final infrastructure planning scenarios because you have to incorporate this project with the current development and then the undeveloped on the north," CSD General Manager Ed Crouse said at the Finance Committee meeting. "You have to take a look at everything holistically, not just one little Murieta West planning area."

Most of Murieta's undeveloped land is owned by the Pension Trust Fund of the Operating Engineers, which began development of the community 35 years ago. Beyond pieces of development already in the approval pipeline -- and facing opposition from community members -- Sullivan has said he believes PTF development here will be stalled for years.

While RMA directors received Sullivan's presentation without comment at Tuesday's public meeting, CSD President John Merchant was more effusive at the CSD Finance Committee last week. "I think the right word for this whole thing is synergy," he remarked. "It's real early in the game, but I get good vibes over what I'm seeing."

Merchant suggested that Sullivan present the project to the community at a town hall meeting. "If you can get an endorsement of the concept, it facilitates the process by having those boards (CSD, RMA, Country Club) being able to go downtown … and say we all think this is a really good idea," Merchant said.

Sullivan proposed staging a collaborative meeting that brings together all interested parties over several days to examine the project.

The proposal includes the following:

  • The Equestrian Center would change to a regional focus for its events, requiring support facilities close by, including a 100-unit hotel.
  • Plans for Lookout Hill -- the towering knoll across from the North Gate -- call for a restaurant, spa and bungalows to be built on and around it.
  • Plans for the Frank property include a church, school, offices with lofts on top, the 100-unit hotel, and expansion of the existing lake on the property to make it a competitive water ski and recreational lake.
  • Airport development calls for up to 24 housing units with hangars and an association of pilots and aircraft owners to run the commercial side of the airport, with the CSD possibly assuming operations. "We think that from a community asset the airport ought to be here in perpetuity," said Sullivan at the CSD Finance Committee. "If the community supports it, then maybe it belongs in the CSD's hands."
  • 70-75 units of clustered affordable housing for area employees located next to Murieta Village.
  • A total of 377 units of housing south of Highway 16.
  • 99 homes on 127 acres between the north boundary of Rancho Murieta and the Deer Creek Hills conservancy.

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