The push to make TV cable service optional was a recurring theme at Tuesday's Rancho Murieta Association board of directors meeting. An analysis of the system's finances indicates the service could continue with a smaller customer base, the board reported.
The board voted to permit members of the Freedom of Choice Committee to continue their door-to-door solicitation for proxy votes for a bylaws amendment that would prohibit using dues to support the cable system. Directors Paul Gumbinger and Mike Martel opposed the motion. Referring to complaints the association has received, Gumbinger said people feel intimidated by the canvassers. Martel said he wanted members to know the bylaws amendment proposal has not been vetted or approved by the RMA.
President Dick Cox said, "It doesn't have to meet our standards. It only has to comply with the CC&Rs."
Director Jim Moore reported on a spreadsheet Finance Committee member Frank Pumilia prepared to analyze cable TV costs "showing different scenarios if we went to an optional system. ... It showed that our cable system could remain competitive with other outside offerings and we could stay in business and half the people or a number of people could opt out."
Pumilia considered the number of subscribers, reserve contribution levels, content costs and other variables in developing the spreadsheet. RMA members now pay about $31 a month for the cable system in their dues. This covers basic cable programming, operating costs and a replacement reserves contribution. (Pumilia's Excel spreadsheets are available as attachment downloads at the end of this story.)
At the start of the board's discussion about surveying members about cable, John Weatherford, a member of the Freedom of Choice Committee, said the citizens group is "currently conducting probably the most thorough survey you can do. We're knocking on doors, we're knocking on every door. ... There's one thing they all want. They want freedom of choice."
Cox responded that wasn't the question. "Do they want freedom of choice at $119 a month? ... I really don't know what the bulk of this community wants us to do with TV. Do they want us to continue running it, do they want us to sell it? ... If we get out of the TV business, the broadband goes with it and we have 517 members on broadband. I am one of them and I don't want to go someplace else for broadband."
"Well, that's replaceable, at a lesser price," Weatherford said. "That's the whole issue of freedom of choice. It's just that simple."
George Roper, who's also active in the proxy effort, said "a very large number" of people he's talked to want the option to stay or leave but would chose to stay with the cable system. He said he tells them he believes the cable system would be viable in an opt-out scenario.
Stiffer called the ability to opt out a separate issue. "The question that's being asked is, ‘What do our members want to see happen to the system?' Do they want the association to stay in business with cable TV and broadband or do they want to sell? ... If the board decides that they want to sell the system, there will be a requirement for a member vote."
After the board voted 4-2 in favor of surveying the membership, Moore said, "What are you going to ask? If you ask people what they want, they want 200 channels for $30 a month."
Cox directed staff to prepare survey questions for the board to consider at the next board meeting.
Directors Cox, Gumbinger and Chris Pedersen were appointed to meet with representatives of the Pension Trust Fund for Operating Engineers June 25 to discuss reopening negotiations on the section in the Mutual Benefit Agreement that deals with the cable system.
According to a legal opinion the RMA obtained and sent out to members, the governing documents can't be amended to remove the basic cable charges from the regular assessment without the written agreement of land owners and developers, and there is no reason to expect that they would do that.
Solving neighborhood problems
The board discussed the RMA CC&R that addresses "noxious activities" in the community and the possibility of developing new non-architectural rules for enforcement. The discussion came after neighbor George Kammerer repeated his complaints about noisy neighbors. He has taken the complaints to the Community Services District already and gotten no satisfaction. The Sacramento Sheriff's Department has also been brought in to deal with the matter.
The CC&R refers to maintaining a "quiet time" between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. and lists barking dogs, stereo amplifiers, noisy air-conditioning units, and power tools as noise sources that could "unreasonably disturb any other Member's enjoyment of his or her Lot or the Common Area."
Director Paul Gumbinger said the CC&R has a "twist." It says, If there is a dispute about whether the noise constitutes a nuisance, it will be "presumed to be a nuisance if it is offensive to at least seventy-five percent (75%) of the Owners or occupants of any Dwellings that are either joined to, or within a 250-foot radius of, the center of the Lot or structure from which the alleged nuisance emanates."
Director Chris Pedersen, the chairman of the Compliance Committee, said it was clear to the committee that "a rule can be broken, a citation can be written" without resorting to the 75 percent consensus.
"We need to come up with non-architectural rules that Security can enforce," said Cox. "They can enforce our non-architectural rules, and they will enforce them."
New architectural rules get mixed reaction
Changes in the RMA's architectural rules affecting circle, cottage and townhouse lots failed to pass, but the board unanimously approved similar changes that apply to estate lots. The new design standards for estate lots limit construction to no more than 35 percent of the lot and designate setbacks to avoid encroaching on neighboring houses.
Two residents spoke against the circle-lot changes that would have limited construction to no more than 50 percent of the circle. One of the speakers, Realtor Karen Hoberg, said she was representing clients as well.
The rules were circulated for public comment more than a month ago. With one director absent, the board deadlocked on votes affecting circle and cottage lots, effectively killing the measures, and voted down the one proposed for townhouses.
The board approved rule changes proposed for storage sheds and accessory buildings.
Board approves water truck purchase
The board voted unanimously to approve an expenditure of up to $6,000 to buy a used water truck to irrigate the lawns of foreclosed homes.
Last week RMA Maintenance began watering the lawns at 19 homes, now up to 20. The homes are evenly divided between North and South. The cost of renting the truck being used now is $100 a day, about half of the total daily cost of the effort. Other options for watering were considered and rejected because of liability concerns, General Manager David Stiffler said.
In addition to watering, Maintenance will remove dead plantings and use stockpiled wood chips on lawns where the grass is too far gone to respond. "This process will continue indefinitely," said Stiffler.
Stiffler said the truck can be used for many things, including street cleaning and when mowing undeveloped areas where there is a potential for fire.
The board approved Maintenance Department expenditure requests to spend $6,982 to replace street signs and $4,300 to replace the vehicle lift used in maintaining the association's vehicles.
New enforcement rules approved
The board unanimously approved new non-architectural rules that enhance penalties for speeding, increase fines for multiple moving violations occurring in the same year, and require cars and golf carts to stop for school buses displaying flashing red lights or a stop sign.
A reference to golf carts crossing Highway 16 illegally was replaced with the Golf Cart Circulation Plan that allows for legal crossings at the North and South traffic intersections.
A new enforcement rule requires residents and guests to identify themselves to a Security officer if asked to do so.
Quorum vote fails
The bylaws change to reduce quorum requirements for the election of RMA directors failed to get enough member votes. There were 814 votes in favor of the change, RMA staff reported, hundreds shy of the 50 percent plus one needed to pass.
Aviation summer camp offered for teens
The board passed a resolution in support of Rancho Murieta Aviators' Young Eagles Summer Day Camp after local aviator Wally Boeck outlined the one-week program designed for teenagers 13 to 18 years old who are interested in aviation. It begins July 28 and concludes Aug. 1 with an Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagles flight event at the airport.
Campers will receive instruction from aviation professionals throughout the week and have the opportunity to use flight simulators on a field trip to Mather Field. RMA insurance will cover activities on the ground. The Experimental Aircraft Association provides insurance coverage for the Young Eagles events at the airport.
The program can accommodate 50 campers. The cost is $199. For information, contact Boeck at 354-8764 or email@example.com.
- The board approved reinstating the Joint Security Committee for 12 months with Directors Chris Pedersen and Dick Cox representing RMA.
- Steve Anderson was appointed to replace new Director Jim Moore as a member of the Compliance Committee.
- John Weatherford replaces Moore on the Finance Committee, which Moore chairs as RMA treasurer.
Two letters concerning funds the RMA repaid itself for legal expenses for the pedestrian bridge -- one letter from the CSD and one from developer Reynen & Bardis -- were brought up at the meeting. Director Paul Gumbinger invited members to attend the June 26 Parks Committee meeting where Gary Parker of Reynen & Bardis is expected to discuss the points he makes in his letter. Previous coverage of the issue is available here.