The moratorium on granting new exclusive uses will extend into the new year, the Rancho Murieta Association board of directors decided at this month's board meeting. The board also discussed the status of the cable system and how to punish young vandals.
The directors voted 4-3 to extend the moratorium until a new application and approval procedure is developed. Directors Mike Martel, Bonita Jones and Jack Cooper voted against the motion made by Director Dick Cox.
"What I'm trying to achieve is I'm trying to kill exclusive use but I'm also trying to meet ... very valid requirements to change the process legally," Cox said.
The board imposed a moratorium on granting new exclusive uses in July that applies to requests made after the law changed in January 2006.
Last month, after receiving a detailed legal opinion from legal counsel, the board indicated it was ready to end the moratorium and continue the current policy of granting exclusive uses. The vote was postponed to allow Cox, a newly elected director, to participate.
RMA CC&Rs allow owners of cottage, townhouse and circle lots to lease up to 1,200 square feet of common area immediately adjacent to their homes for heating and air conditioning equipment, propane tanks, decking, unroofed patios, landscaping and swimming pools. The same provision exists in a 1977 ordinance passed by the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors.
Requests for exclusive use are processed by the Architectural Review Committee and require the approval of the board.
"... I've gone back and forth on this," Director Paul Gumbinger admitted at the Dec. 18 meeting.. "Last month I was prepared to approve going back and issuing exclusive uses on the advice of our attorneys. ... The CC&Rs still allow for exclusive use. ... It's not a right. It's something that can be applied for, and looked at and considered...."
At the beginning of the half-hour discussion, when Martel remarked, "I take my legal opinions seriously," Cox countered by saying the legal opinions the RMA has received from its attorneys "are not binding on the board because they do not say you have to grant exclusive use common ground. They say that you can."
Cox said he obtained an exclusive use of 600 square feet for his townhouse, but now concludes changes in the law mean "the Davis-Stirling Act does not allow us to issue exclusive use common ground."
"I think the best solution for the board is to follow the safe harbor of the Davis-Stirling Act," Director Chris Pedersen offered. "If you want to apply for exclusive use, the guidelines that have to be met are the guidelines set forth in the Davis-Stirling Act. ... It's very arduous criteria."
Architectural Manager Mark Parsons agreed. "There's only two conditions out of the eight conditions that are spelled out in the Davis-Stirling Act that we could even possibly, remotely fall under," he said. In this scenario, exclusive use would be limited to accommodating propane tanks or air conditioning equipment on smaller lots, he said.
Director Mel Standart noted state law supersedes the CC&Rs and the new law requires a vote of the membership to grant exclusive use of common area. He proposed, "We follow Davis-Stirling, we amend our procedures accordingly and we move forward."
The new law requires exclusive uses to be granted by a vote of 67 percent of the membership unless a different percentage is specified in the CC&Rs.
There are more than 900 lots in the categories that qualify for exclusive use leases. Many already have exclusive uses in place and are not affected by the 2006 changes.
At the RMA's request, the problematic circle lot concept was abandoned in favor of estate lots when the South was developed nearly two decades ago. The Fairways is the first subdivision on the North to have only estate lots.
Several directors said they would like to see a court ruling on the issue. Gumbinger said it was unlikely the small claims suit neighbor Wilbur Haines filed against the RMA will provide that resolution.
"I think that we are hoping ... for a lawsuit so that it can get to a superior court so that it can be adjudicated one way or the other," said President Jack Cooper.
Cable system update
Communications Committee chair Mel Standart reported that General Manager David Stiffler had provided a status report and overview of cable systems projects for the board in response to criticism about "piecemealing" of cable efforts at the November board meeting.
"It is an excellent summary," Standart said. The document was not available at the meeting.
Standart said projects include completion of fiber-optic cable runs and ongoing work to divide the service area into six segments, and replace and upgrade components on the North for better service and reduced maintenance. The work was first scheduled to be complete earlier this year and is now expected to be complete by the end of February, according to Standart.
Reading from the report he'd prepared, Standart cautioned, "The board needs to understand that the infrastructure improvements, while important and impressive, will not necessarily provide an acceptable television signal to every home in the community. History tells us that every time we have improved the infrastructure we have discovered additional problems downstream. ..."
Standart talked of evaluating the cable effort in 2008 and developing "a Plan B" that includes the board's review of options to sell, lease or abandon the system. "Efforts have been initiated to determine if there is a market for our system," he said.
Standart described Plan B as "a generic alternative to continuing to upgrade the system."
President Jack Cooper said a mailing will go out next month to survey members about making basic RMA cable optional instead of mandatory. The survey was requested as part of a petition that was recently circulated in the community by cable system critic John Weatherford and others.
The association will provide its own information in the mailing. "It just tells you what the legal limitations are that face RMA," Cooper said.
During public comments earlier in the meeting, Weatherford gave his assessment of the multi-year cable improvement plan's second year. "The results so far have been far from encouraging," he said as he listed expenses the board approved for the plan in 2007 that total $253,650.
Crime and punishment for vandals
Director Dick Cox touched off a discussion about crime and punishment in the community by recommending "public humiliation" for both the teenagers who commit crimes of vandalism and their parents. Director Mike Martel noted it isn't the board's job to label kids as troublemakers and pointed out that, judging by the citations issued each month, it's adults who are the chief offenders.
Saying parents who "blow through stop signs" and speed set a bad example for their children, Director Chris Pedersen suggested listing the names of adults who violate the community's rules. Cox agreed with the approach.
Pedersen is the chairman of the Compliance Committee.
At the present time, the Community Services District Security and the RMA do not make violators' names public or provide identifying information.
- The board approved without discussion an amendment to the memorandum of understanding with Rancho Murieta Youth Enrichment Advocacy for a skateboard park. RMYEA is a private group that plans to fund construction of the facility at Stonehouse Park.
- President Jack Cooper reported that the board had reviewed and authorized payment of legal fees totaling $29,000 during its executive session.
- Music teacher C.B. Craig told the board he hopes to take advantage of the "wonderful talent pool out here" to assemble a troupe of singers and dancers to perform Greek mythology set to music at hospitals and non-profit organizations. Performance experience is required. For information about auditions, call 354-2752.