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Faced with an 11th-hour challenge by the Rancho Murieta Association, the county Board of Supervisors on Wednesday voted to delay final action on three Murieta North development projects by a week.

The board voted unanimously to continue the session at 6:45 p.m. Dec. 12. Supervisor Roger Dickinson was not present for the vote.

Speaking after the meeting, Candy Chand, one of the Murietans opposing the developments, said an attorney would spend the next week going over recently uncovered documents in more detail. "I don't think that it will be the end," she said.

Given comments by the supervisors at the October meeting on the topic, it was expected that Wednesday's vote would be a formality.

But on Monday, the RMA announced it had uncovered documents that seemed to say a large amount of the development area had been annexed into the RMA 27 years ago. An RMA letter asked the county to force the developers to disprove the RMA's claim before approving their projects.

Annexation is a key development issue, with opponents pushing for it and developers refusing it.

Fewer than 20 people attended Wednesday's two-hour meeting, in contrast with previous sessions on Murieta development, which sometimes filled the room.

Supervisor Don Nottoli, who represents Murieta, pushed repeatedly for county involvement on the RMA's behalf, which was resisted by Deputy County Counsel Krista Whitman.

"This isn't a matter for the board to decide," she said in answer to a question about the annexation issue, calling the relationship between the RMA and developers "a private contract."

When asked by Nottoli if it wouldn't be better for the county to have the issue clarified before approving the developments, Whitman said, "Certainly it's cleaner," and added, "I wonder why we first heard about this (annexation challenge) three days ago. It makes me kinda wonder how accurate this information is."

In summary comments, Nottoli said he believed the vote should be delayed until the annexation issue could be addressed. He called it "not fair to the folks that live there currently."

Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan said she was willing to back Nottoli's request for a delay. "I've supported these projects, and I don't think in the end this is going to change that," she said.

"This is not just a stall tactic," Nottoli said, "...but I think it's worth taking some more time. ... We're talking about months (before construction)."

In response to Nottoli's question, Whitman said she had no idea how long it would take to resolve the annexation issue, but in the end, she guessed it would take six weeks.

John M. Taylor of Taylor & Wiley, lawyer for the developers, took the microphone and urged the board to act on the projects immediately, or at most delay them by a week. To do anything else would be to act as a court might in addressing the conflict, he said, adding, "You'd better think very, very carefully before you walk down that course."

Nottoli moved to continue the meeting for six weeks. MacGlashan immediately made a motion that the meeting be continued for one week. Her motion prevailed.

Earlier in the session, five Murietans addressed the board.

Terry Hanson, one of the longtime opponents of the developments, likened the county's refusal to act on the annexation question to the governor trying to halt an execution at 11:59, one minute before midnight, and being refused.

"Do the right thing for a change," he said, "and suppress this appearance that the county caves to special interests. ... The only thing for you to do is to stay the execution and go back and examine all these facts."

Chand said the county's approach -- that the developers and association would have to work out the issues -- was "throwing the developers head-on into a legal train wreck with Rancho Murieta."

RMA Director Mike Martel told the supervisors how the documents came to be found.

The RMA's letter to the county, by attorney Steven S. Weil, said a declaration of annexation was filed Dec. 31, 1980, and followed up with another filing, making a correction, two weeks later.

"Although difficult to trace because of the metes and bounds descriptions in the exhibit," the letter says, "it appears that most if not all of the 'Rancho North' property ... may be within the property included in this legal description."

After making the discovery, the letter continues, the RMA tried through title search to determine if the annexation had been rescinded but could find no evidence of that. The letter asks the county supervisors to require the developers to resolve the question before further steps are taken.

At issue are three projects totaling 282 homes.

The Residences of Murieta Hills West and East would be bounded by Guadalupe, Puerto and Escuela drives. They were originally one project and are now two, each with 99 lots. Warmington Homes is the developer for Residences East and the Woodside Group is developing Residences West.

The following information about the projects comes from the environmental impact report for the projects prepared by the county Department of Environmental Review and Assessment.

Residences West consists of 59.9 acres and Residences East is 86.2 acres. Together they have 70 acres of open space, about 48 percent of the total acreage. This includes a 30-plus-acre oak woodland.

The planning department recommended approval of the Residences projects after developers made grading and other changes.

The Retreat, located near the Country Club, would consist of 84 lots on three pieces of land totaling 30.3 acres. The developer is Cassano Kamilos Homes.

The county Planning Department did not recommend approval for the Retreat project because the property was planned for higher density development than what's proposed.

All of the projects will pay fees to comply with the county requirement for affordable housing instead of providing on-ite low-income housing.

Recent coverage: RMA asks county to address documents that challenge development plans (December 3, 2007)

Wilbur Haines's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
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Thank you

Thank you again for your prompt and thorough coverage!

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