A Community Services District committee last week discussed the organization’s process to buy hundreds of acres of open space and Country Club land, a proposal that’s only weeks old. Already, the committee said, two questions about a possible deal have been answered positively.
- Is the developer interested in discussing a sale? CSD General Manager Mark Martin said he spoke with John Sullivan, one of the development leaders, and asked in general terms if they were interested. Sullivan said the answer was yes. That’s as far as Martin was authorized to take the conversation.
- Will it be difficult for the CSD to gain approval from the Local Agency Formation Commission to oversee recreational facilities? It turns out the approval was a formality: CSD made the request in 2005 and LAFCO approved it, Martin said.
How to share this project with the CSD board and the community was discussed at Thursday’s Communications Committee meeting. The committee agreed there are a number of questions that will be answered at the next board meeting, 5 p.m. Nov. 15.
Director John Merchant, who has shepherded the idea to buy the land, wondered if the developers would be open to creating a “global settlement” of potentially litigious issues – like the Mutual Benefit Agreement and multiple homeowner associations – and the possibility of swapping acreage with the Rancho Murieta Association.
Instead of speaking to the developers at board meetings, Merchant asked, “Do we actually go to the people we’re trying to do business with and say, ‘Hey, here are some of the ideas we have. What are you receptive to, or what are you not?’”
Martin said he thinks foundational issues should be addressed first. He suggested the next board meeting should set parameters of the deal – clarity about the acreage involved, more definition on offerings like a pool and fitness club and the CSD’s role in management of the Country Club.
Martin said trying to estimate costs for something as simple sounding as the swimming pool requires a lot of answers up front. As a starting point, he said, “We can just have a hole in the ground,” but other issues arise quickly: Will there be a deck? Hoping to attract local swim teams might require stands for spectators, restrooms and a snack bar. For swim meets, how big must the pool be?
“It sounds like it’s getting into the weeds,” he said, “but to cost it, you’ve at least got to know the bigger picture of what the ultimate use of that facility would be, so you can start to put a ballpark costing on that.”
Tightening the scope of the idea he offered last month, Merchant said the land to be purchased should be measured in lots, not parcels. “Really, what we were interested in kind of bores down to somewhere between 250 and 280 lots,” he said. “So those are what we need to identify first.”
Last month’s first take on the proposal was more than 300 lots.
Another question is the role of the Country Club in any deal.
Merchant said he thinks the club has no say in the possible transaction because it exercised its sale option last year and can’t do that again until 2021. “We can certainly take input from them on what size swimming pool they want,” he said, “and whether they want stands or not, or any of that other stuff, but they don’t have any real influence in going forward with this negotiation.”
Mark Pecotich, the board president and the other member of the Communications Committee, said he isn’t happy with how the development conversation has gone in the community so far, starting with the developers’ unwillingness to hold the public meetings they’ve promised. He also said the RMA hasn’t been communicative about its private discussions with the developers. “Clearly, they’re hashing out the MBA with the developers,” he said.
Pecotich had a few thoughts about how CSD should communicate its messages throughout this process.
He said information needs to be shared in steps, in “a facilitated, open dialogue” with the community, which should demonstrate the CSD’s transparency and create all possible buy-in. Doing it this way will demonstrate that the CSD has considered the various pieces of the situation, he said, and offer information in digestible pieces for people living their “hundred-mile-per-hour lives.”