Nearly 50 residents packed the Association Board meeting room on February 4, demonstrating a high level of interest in a number of projects before the Board.
The meeting was punctuated by several commentators who expressed concerns over prospective cell tower sites and the upcoming San Dieguito Half Marathon. During the meeting, the Board voted unanimously to move forward on an updated environmental impact report (EIR) as required by the County in order to install roundabouts, to hold a town hall meeting that would give the community another opportunity to discuss the cell towers, and to formalize the 2016 election schedule.
Additionally, the Board indicated that an amendment to the Covenant bylaws concerning voter rights is expected to be placed on this year’s Board election ballot.
The Pursuit of Better Cell Coverage Draws Fire
Since an initial wireless master plan was crafted nearly a decade ago, mobile phone technology has changed dramatically. As a result, cell coverage in the Ranch has lagged behind, and according to Board Director and Chair of the Technology Committee, Philip Wilkinson, Rancho Santa Fe, “is the number one problematic cell coverage area in San Diego County.”
In an effort to solve the problem, the Technology Committee met with dozens of industry experts, received multiple proposals from qualified service providers, and has now focused on an agreement from American Tower Corporation (ATC) to begin the process of installing cell towers inside the Ranch.
But, the prospect of new cell towers in the Ranch does not sit well with some residents, a number who voiced concern that their property values would be adversely affected by the preliminary locations identified by ATC for three new cell towers.
Click here to download a map of proposed locations.
Resident Anne-Marie Weller suggested that the Board reevaluate the disparate impact to individual residents. “This means either not permitting these cell towers near homes or, alternatively, placing them where we are all equally affected,” she said.
Weller proposed alternate locations for the towers such as the golf course or the hill adjacent to the reservoir.
Board Director Mike Licosati emphasized to the attendees that the negotiations with ATC, including the cell tower locations, are still preliminary. Additionally, Licosati said, “all the specifications have to get approved by [the Board] and the CDRC. If there are any objections from the community, if there’s litigation, if there’s anything … we tried to put most of that liability onto American Tower, not onto [the Board]. There are a number of outs in this agreement.”
He added, “we can’t even get to the safety discussion and a lot of these other specifications until we start this first step… there’s a lot of leverage we have in these agreements to make sure that this has the least impact possible on the community.”
In a 5-2 vote, the Board agreed to postpone taking immediate action on the engagement agreement until the March board meeting. In addition, the Board voted 7-0 in favor of holding a town hall on the issue of cell coverage prior to that meeting, in which a consultant from ATC will be in attendance to answer any community concerns.
In allowing for more time for community input, Wilkinson said, “We want to get this out to the community. We want to have meetings, we want to have experts there that will be able to answer your questions.”
San Dieguito Half Marathon Runs Into a Barricade
Preparations for the upcoming 48th annual San Dieguito Half Marathon have been unpopular with some residents, in no small part due to the many signs and barricades lining the route.
Resident Frank Creede resides along the scheduled route and voiced his concerns about the event.
“The barricades are so excessive and they’re out there 20 days in advance,” he said. “This is just overreach and it’s excessive.”
A representative from the county was in attendance and promised to remove the barriers.
Being too late to take any actions that might affect this year’s preparations, Board Manager Bill Overton assured RSF members that the RSF Association will meet with the County prior to them making arrangements for next year’s race.
Modernizing The Voting Process; Condo Votes Put On Hold
The issue of voting rights in the Covenant is another long-standing matter that has eluded resolution for decades.
In October 2015, the Association Board directed the Governing Documents Committee to craft a comprehensive solution to the Association’s 80-year-old voting system. Their work will result in a community vote on amended bylaws and is tentatively scheduled to coincide with this year’s Board election.
Board Director Licosati indicated that the amended bylaws aim to accomplish three goals: implementing automatic voter registration like almost every other HOA, eliminating the nominating committee for Association Board positions (which is just a formality), and standardizing the number of votes so each property owner has 2 votes (rather than forcing some residents to go through various legal hoops in order to be given 2 votes).
The committee is also investigating expanding voting rights for condo owners, but there are still additional legal challenges to address before the bylaws can be amended.
Director Wasserman pointed out that expanding voting rights for condo owners requires additional due diligence and asked that residents bear with them while they resolve the issue.
“[T]he Committee recommends that we do give condominium owners a vote. That’s never been an issue,” said Wasserman. “[We] beg your indulgence and ask you to let us do this as a dry run when this committee reconvenes and make the necessary changes in the documents at that time and submit it out to a vote of the membership.”