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With a brief announcement Thursday afternoon, the Rancho Murieta Community Services District made official its interest in purchasing hundreds of acres of undeveloped Rancho Murieta land.  Before the meeting was over, a Murietan representing a group that also hopes to buy the land warned the CSD it was behaving improperly.

At the start of the meeting, Laura Hollender from the CSD’s law firm, Meyers Nave, gave a one-sentence report on the executive-session conversation on the land owned by the Pension Trust Fund for Operating Engineers:  “In closed session this evening, the board gave direction as to the terms and price of a potential acquisition of the real properties listed on the closed session agenda.  That’s all.”

As the meeting drew to a close, Murietan John Sullivan, representing another potential buyer of the property, came to the podium and asked the board to explain what strategic reason would be served by buying property “that really has nothing to do with district business.”

John Sullivan

John Sullivan says of the CSD's interest in buying Murieta land, "They can’t legitimately bid on this property. Not in a million years.”

Looking somber and speaking deliberately, Sullivan, a former CSD director, also questioned the selection of General Manager Ed Crouse as a negotiator for the sale “because of the information that he has from people who have approached the district for various information regarding infrastructure and other issues that would affect the letter of intent price.” Sullivan concluded, “That’s my comment and my concern and my warning, that I think it might be very problematic if there was a favorable response to the district regarding these negotiations.”

After the meeting, Crouse called the letter of intent the board agreed to submit “an expression of interest with suggested terms and price,” and said his understanding is the PTF will evaluate the letters and select a potential buyer to enter into final negotiations for the purchase. “We believe we have the authority to enter into a purchase and sale agreement,” he said.

When asked to explain Sullivan’s remarks, Crouse said he thought the implication was he would have “some inside knowledge that would put us in a better position to acquire the property,” which he denied. He said the board didn’t consider it a conflict for him to serve as a negotiator for the purchase along with Adam Lindgren, the district’s primary lawyer.

“We believe in the short term we will need to reach out to the community and get a sense of their feelings on the matter. We won’t do that until, if, we’re selected as a potential buyer,” Crouse said. “I think you could say we’d like to throw our hat in the ring.”

Crouse declined to provide information about how the district would finance a sale, saying it was “part of the confidentiality of the letter of intent,” along with the price.

On the market are about 700 acres of undeveloped PTF property in Rancho Murieta, along with the Country Club and the Operating Engineers Training Center, listed without an asking price by the real estate firm of Grubb & Ellis.  It has set Oct. 29 as the deadline for offers.

When he was reached by phone after the meeting, Sullivan said, “before the district makes any kind of offer and commits any kind of funds, including personnel or labor or attorney’s fees ... or anything else, they need to discuss with the community what the strategic interest the district might have in any of the properties they might be interested in acquiring. ... Is it to build a water storage facility? Is it to expand the water treatment plant? Is it to to expand the wastewater treatment plant? Is it to set up a dump? ... The last time I checked, the Community Services District has responsibilities for sewer, water, drainage, security and solid waste. It has a whole series of other latent powers, but the last time I checked, none of them was property development.”

As for his critical comments about the general manager serving as a negotiator, Sullivan said,  “My concern is that Ed Crouse got information from me regarding my ownership group that I represent and passed the inside knowledge about that as part of his negotiations with the Pension Trust Fund. ... Ed Crouse has to recuse himself and he has to ... separate that from anything else that’s discussed with the board or the attorney for the district. He can’t be the negotiator. He can’t.” 

Sullivan said he thinks the Brown Act has been violated in the handling of the property negotiations. “They have to discuss this stuff publicly,” he said. “They’re not allowed to be secret people. It’s against the law. ... They can’t legitimately bid on this property. Not in a million years.”

As an example, Sullivan cited the agenda for a closed CSD board special meeting Sept. 18, saying it didn’t list all of the relevant parcels of land as the board appointed property negotiators to represent the CSD. “They only listed a few parcels of property,” Sullivan said.

Two days after that special meeting, Crouse was asked by RanchoMurieta.com if the property negotiation discussed Sept. 18 involved a PTF land sale, as the parcels listed were some of the ones currently on the market. Crouse responded that it wasn’t about the PTF property sale; instead, he said the parcel numbers were related to drainage easement issues with the Country Club concerning the North Course.

Previous coverage:

In other business at Thursday’s CSD meeting:

Board approves water master plan update

The board approved the integrated water master plan update. The update of the plan adopted in 2006 addresses state legislation for reducing water use 20 percent by 2020, models droughts and evaluates climate change risk and other changes. Public comments and responses attached to the update include a comment letter from the California Department of Public Health that was posted in the forums on RanchoMurieta.com.

The update has a model that can be used to “test, validate, and study” water supply in future water years or in changed conditions,  according to Jenny Gain, a senior engineer with consultant Brown and Caldwell. The supply demand is based on a 750 gallons per day equivalent dwelling unit, although actual usage in the community is lower. “We went with the 750 because it’s more conservative,”  Gain said.

Three different build-out growth scenarios -- high, medium and low -- are used in the model.

The 50 percent reduction in water use during a severe drought is based on 750 gallons per day average annual use. Since demand would already be down 20 percent in a medium buildout scenario because of 20/20 compliance, Brown and Caldwell Vice President Paul Selsky pointed out in reality it would be about a 30 percent reduction, although it was 50 percent of the 750 gallons per day EDU.  Selsky said current water usage is down in the 600s, but added, “caution is needed, so that’s why we went for the 750” for planning purposes.

Water supply augmentation strategies include using recycled water for parks and new development as the community grows.
In response to the comment letter from the Department of Public Health, Selsky said the study recommends getting authorization to use Lake Clementia as a source of potable water. He said El Dorado Irrigation District got approval for the Sly Park reservoir “and even kept the body contact in there.” Lake Clementia was identified for drought-supply use in a 1990 water study that forms the basis for CSD water policy, he noted.

“Expanded recycled water use is expensive but offers a lot of benefits,” Selsky said. Since recycled water is used for landscaping, it could lower the peak demand for potable water and reduce the size of future water treatment facilities, he said.
The update recommends revisiting planning for drought triggers every few years. “You want to call a drought and reduce demands early,” Selsky said, “but the danger is of having a false alert issue, and then we have late season rains. So it’s always a juggling act.” The goal is to reduce demand before heavy summertime usage sets in, he said.

“If you make a 50 percent reduction off of current water use today, there would still be, for most people, some outdoor water use potential,” Selsky said, “because the indoor (usage) is more like 40 percent. The hotter the climate, the bigger the lots, the lower the indoor use.”

Regarding the use of recycled water, General Manager Ed Crouse again emphasized that the Country Club has first priority for its golf courses.

The Integrated Water Master Plan Update is available on the CSD web site as part of the meeting packet.

‘Lost Lake’ update

“You call it Lost Lake.  I call it the South Side Swamp,” a neighbor from Reynosa Drive told the board about a drainage basin on the South.  He asked the board to “do something about this eyesore” and showed photos he’d taken at different times since moving into a home next to the drainage basin in 2000.

President Bobbi Belton invited him to attend the November Improvements Committee meeting where the matter would be on the agenda.

Later in the meeting, Paul Siebensohn, director of field operations, said one of the approaches being looked at to control algae growth in the drainage basin is using a solar mixing unit,  which the department has available.

Al Dolata's picture
Joined: 08/09/2007
Posts: 94
Post rating: 129

20% plus 30% = 50%

Apparently having forgotten whaterever you heard them say, Candy, CSD said last night that the 20% reduction in their plan is part of the 50%, not on top of it. 

Al Dolata

Candy Chand's picture
Joined: 08/15/2007
Posts: 304
Post rating: 811


After CSD met with the state (following their letter) the CSD simply changed their tune. In fact,my understanding is, CSD is re-phrasing some of the verbiage for "clarification." Besides the documentation from CSD, please remember that the CSD's own consultant said it was a total of 70% at a public meeting just a couple of months ago.  She clearly confirmed the 70%, when asked not once, but twice. Bottom line, the 70% has changed due to the state letter. That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.

Ultimately, that's a good thing. But stay tuned...more coming.

Candy Chand

Candy Chand's picture
Joined: 08/15/2007
Posts: 304
Post rating: 811

Bouncing numbers + bouncing numbers equals

...more bouncing numbers...


I did a quick search of the revised CSD Water Plan document. Since it was a brief review, I hope I'm pulling up the right section.


To reflect what was previously written (not just spoken by the CSD's  own consultant at a meeting) as a 70% reduction, on page 80 of the new CSD water draft, it reflects the following verbiage.. The document states: 

"If this surplus was dedicated to new residences, outdoor allocation would only have to be reduced by 50 percent instead of the 70 percent previously described"


In addition, at the meeting last night, the consultant for CSD said the additive method (which is the 50  plus 20) was still reflected as an option. (although, clearly downplayed now).

Candy Chand 955 2027

Jerry Pasek's picture
Joined: 12/13/2007
Posts: 135
Post rating: 191


It is interesting to see that everyone seems to be concerned about the reductions necessary as the lakes drop to dead zones due to draught. What you all seem to forget, is that the reductions apply to yearly averages NOT what you use in the home (although that could usually be reduced with ease). Note your use in Jan (when the irrigation is supposed to be shut off) and again in August and see if you could reduce (or live within a draught year) the use for outside irrigation. Yes, some plants may have to be sacrificed, some grass replanted, pool use stopped, but does it mean you are truly crimped in normal living? Does it mean you will lose ALL outside vegetation, hence millions of dollars lost within the community? I doubt it. Having lived through the 1970's and that SEVERE draught, one can adjust and live to tolerate conditions. That is especially true if it costs you significant money to not attempt to reduce so everyone has some water in their household.

Jerry Pasek

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