Despite opposition by a development representative, the community’s Parks Committee voted last week to build a three-acre Greens Park on the South, with play equipment and Frisbee golf. The approved spending is $358,443.
The park, part of 21 acres of wetlands off Jigger Court, was first discussed a decade ago but shelved because the estimated cost then was between $550,000 and $700,000. Working with the Parks Committee, the Rancho Murieta Association downsized the plans and took on some of the oversight work to reduce the cost.
The Parks Committee approved the proposal to develop the park in June. Last week’s vote was approval to spend the money from the parks fund, which is made up of fixed contributions from developers and lesser fixed contributions from RMA.
Of the $358,443, $174,000 will come from the parks fund and the rest will be advanced by the RMA in exchange for credit for its future parks contributions.
The latter point disturbed development representative John Sullivan, who argued that South developers are supposed to build their own parks, according to the South parks development agreement. He said the RMA’s action would remove future parks funding from the North, where Sullivan and his company are developing.
Sullivan, who has supported the Greens Park project, said he had voted to “allow the North funds from the Retreats to be transferred and used on the South park,” referring to about $70,000 the developers paid to the parks fund for the Retreats project.
Sullivan, a longtime Murietan, is co-manager of the Rancho Murieta North project, which is proposing hundreds of homes for the North and has started building the Retreats project.
Here’s part of a 15-minute exchange he had on the North-South funding issue with Greg Vorster, the RMA’s general manager:
Sullivan: “All of this is stuff that we had no involvement in amending without express written consent of the land owners.”
Vorster: “I mean, you weren’t personally, but there were representatives from the development community (voting) when that action was taken.”
Sullivan: “But verbal vote, and express written approval, are two entirely different things. You can have (past developers Robert J. Cassano and Gerry N. Kamilos), who never owned any property on the North other than the Retreats property, you can have them say anything they want about Residences East and West and all the North property and anything else, but they aren’t the land owners.”
Vorster: “But they were the (Pension Trust Fund) representative at the time.”
Sullivan: “No! There’s a bright line between express written consent of land owners and a Parks Committee that doesn’t reflect the land owners. That means that you guys can all vote whatever you want on the requirements for what the North does.”
Vorster: “OK. I’m saying, at the time, the land owners were represented, and they supported moving forward in that fashion.”
Sullivan added, “We tried to be cooperative by taking our park funds and allowing them to be used over on the South, and now you’re taking our match money from the North and taking it over to the South.”
Vorster: “A good percentage of the South park dollars went to Stonehouse Park.”
Sullivan’s attempt to draw a line between South and North funding got pushback from Mark Pecotich, the Community Services District’s representative, and Cheryl McElhany, one of the RMA’s representatives. (The Parks Committee is made up of two RMA representatives, one CSD representative and two development representatives.)
Pecotich told Sullivan, “It’s one community. ... It’s Rancho Murieta. It’s not Rancho Murieta North. It’s not Rancho Murieta South.”
Said McElhany, “I would say that we can’t keep falling back on the fact that, you know, development on the North should only be spent on the North, and development on the South should only be spent on the South.”
Vorster made a final argument to Sullivan: “Stonehouse Park would not have gotten built under your scenario. And that was a priority of the committee at the time, and that’s where they wanted the resources spent. And the South developer supported that when that was done.”
Said Sullivan, “You’re not swaying me.”
McElhany, the committee chair, called for a vote. The three RMA and CSD members voted in favor of the funding. Sullivan voted no.
The other development representative, Cindy Moreno, the planner for Rancho North Properties, Sullivan's company, did not voice her vote. Asked whether she was voting for or against the proposal, she said, “I’m neither. I’m undecided.” Her vote was recorded as an abstention.
The committee also discussed the community’s trails maps, carrying the conversation to a future meeting, as well as guidelines Pecotich prepared that attempt to blend the various parks agreements into a document that will govern the committee’s work going forward. That conversation was carried forward as well.