The Community Services District took itself out of the running to acquire hundreds of acres of undeveloped Rancho Murieta land Thursday, one week to the day after announcing its interest in the property.
The early-morning special board meeting included a closed session to negotiate the price and terms for property owned by the Pension Trust Fund for Operating Engineers, more than 700 acres of undeveloped land, plus the Country Club and the Operating Engineers training Center. When the board returned to open session, CSD attorney Adam Lindgren of Meyers Nave reported, “The board directed that it does not wish to and will not pursue the potential acquisition of the PTF lands in bulk.”
He said the decision didn’t rule out the purchase of specific parcels, and the board wanted “a public discussion about the possible interest of the district in selected parcels that are closely related to its core functions and only those parcels.”
President Bobbi Belton explained the board’s message to the PTF is “If a bulk sale doesn’t go through ... feel free to talk to us. We might be interested. ... This wasn’t the time or place for us. ... Let’s just do what we’re supposed to do and not become real estate agents.”
The CSD provides water, sewer, drainage, security and solid waste collection services for the community and has additional latent powers.
During the open meeting, Murietan John Sullivan, a representative for a group of potential buyers for the PTF property, opposed the district’s negotiations for the property. He expanded on comments he’d made at last week’s board meeting and read two pages he’d written on what he considers suspected violations of the Brown Act. Lindgren, the district counsel, said his initial reaction “strongly disagreed” with Sullivan’s interpretation.
“This is not the right thing for the district to be doing,” Sullivan insisted with some heat. “... You don’t need to be in some secret meeting, in some clandestine operation whereby you haven’t identified the public of what you’re doing.” Sullivan told the board he had “strong opposition to you submitting any kind of an offer to the PTF other than for strategic properties that the district has the need of in the near or reasonably near future.”
After the meeting, when asked about the board’s change of direction, Belton replied, “It had zero to do with John’s comments either this morning or at our last meeting. ... I don’t think we were violating the Brown Act and our attorney verified that. ... I believe we wanted some concrete answers and we got into more gray area than black and white answers. ... It was going to take some money. I was very reluctant to go into reserves again. One thing that really bothered me as well, we didn’t have time to get a survey from the ratepayers ahead of time. It was all going to be after the fact. So we bowed out gracefully, but I’m happy that we had the chance to think about it for awhile.”