[Story amended Oct. 16] The Community Services District’s meeting Wednesday will explore two large issues that have consumed the community in recent years. The board will discuss whether it should try to purchase the Country Club’s land as well as 500 acres of lakeside land on the North that is planned for development.
An item on the meeting agenda says: “Discussion and consideration regarding proposed acquisition of Rancho Murieta Country Club golf course and other assets and open space and trail areas; related discussion and consideration of financing options and district’s park and recreation powers and objectives; possible board action to provide direction concerning next steps on proposed acquisition.”
The agenda lists an unusual item late in the meeting, taking the board back into closed session for “real property negotiations concerning price and terms of payment” for a string of 14 parcels of land. In an interview Monday, Mark Martin, the CSD's general manager, and Ed Crouse, the interim general manager, said the agenda fails to say the CSD might consider portions of parcels rather than the whole of them. In particular, they pointed to the southernmost piece of land, between Holes 3 and 4 and the river, and said it probably wouldn't be included in the conversation. That changes the acreage and number of lots involved.
The parcels include about 500 gross acres of development land surrounding the community’s main lakes – acreage north of Puerto Drive and surrounding Lake Calero; to the north and east of Lakes Chesbro and Clementia
, and between Holes 3 and 4 and the Cosumnes River.
Some in the community, including organizations like Saving Our Lakes & Open Spaces, have argued that acreage around the lakes should be protected from development because of its natural beauty and because the lakes are reservoirs for the community’s drinking water, which is treated and piped to our homes by the CSD. Others say the beauty of the land will allow high-priced homes that benefit the community.
The club property listed, which includes both courses, the clubhouse, parking lots, the driving range and even the small “Lost Lake” detention basin on the South, totals about 350 acres.
The golf courses serve a key role in Rancho Murieta’s eco-system. They are irrigated with the community’s treated wastewater, a process handled by the CSD.
The idea in front of the CSD would require a considerable change in current development plans – eliminating 316 of the 795 lots now on proposed plans before the county.
There are considerable obstacles to all of this: The CSD has to agree to take on the effort; the land owners have to agree to sell; a price must be negotiated; and the community must vote approval of paying off the purchase price.
CSD Director John Merchant, who has shepherded the idea onto Wednesday’s agenda, said there have been no discussions with the developers about this possibility because that would be illegal.
“We’ve had no contact with them to this point,” Merchant said Saturday, “and until we notify the public of what our intentions are, we didn’t want to do anything. And when I say ‘we,’ we haven’t even met as a board to do this. I can’t go to three directors and say, ‘Hey, why don’t we do this?’ That’s against the law. This board has been extremely sensitive to working within the constraints of the Brown Act.
“Until we get this on the agenda, there really isn’t any way we can proceed until we get a motion. And it conceivably could lose, and then we would just not do anything. But we’ll see Wednesday night what kind of traction it has.”
Merchant said he believes any bond issue for a purchase would need to address both open space and Country Club land, as those two constituencies – Murietans concerned about the club and those concerned about preserving open space – would be required for voter approval.
“Bond issues are hard,” he said. “They take supermajorities (for approval), and unless you can get both of those groups of people on board, you’re kind of wasting your time, because you can’t get enough traction. You gotta deal with both issues, or attempt to deal with both issues, or the possibility of CSD helping is unrealistic.”
The CSD considered a similar purchase in the past.
In 2010, it announced its interest in bidding on more than 700 acres of undeveloped North land, then being offered for sale by the Pension Trust Fund for Operating Engineers, the original developers of Rancho Murieta. Opposing the possibility was longtime Murietan John Sullivan, representing buyers who weren’t identified. He argued at a CSD meeting that the property was unrelated to the district responsibilities and that the CSD couldn’t “legitimately bid on this property. Not in a million years.”
The CSD backed away from the idea a week later.
The parcels now being eyed by the CSD were among those for sale in 2010. An investment group that included Sullivan completed the purchase of the land in 2013. They bought almost 750 acres of North land for about $12.2 million, or $16,573 an acre, according to a 2014 property appraisal. The appraisal set the value of the land at $22.1 million.
CSD staff has met recently with candidates for the Country Club board. Many of the candidates in this month’s club elections believe the club should become a community asset, somehow integrated with the CSD, Rancho Murieta Association or both.
Earlier this year, a deal fell apart in which a buyer would have paid $4 million for the club and its land.
A possible indication of community sentiment around a similar approach was the RMA’s 2012 vote on whether to build a $4.5 million community center and pool. The plan, which called for a $1,200 assessment and ongoing charges of $12 a month for every household, was defeated by nearly a 2-1 margin.
Approval of the measure required a “yes” by a majority of all RMA members – not just a majority of all those voting – which meant about 1,300 “yes” votes were required. The measure got 580 “yes” votes and 979 “no.”
Wednesday’s meeting is at 5 p.m. at the CSD Building, across Jackson Road from the South Gate. The discussion of these issues is scheduled just after the start of the meeting.
Not going to happen. The same people who don't support the RMCC will not vote for having to open their wallets in my opinion.
The story has been amended to reflect comments made by CSD staff Monday.