By Ann Boon
April 4, 2016
Over the last year, this Board has spent great time and effort exploring ways to improve our lives and increase the value of our homes in the Ranch. We have considered a number of projects with the aim of enhancing our community and the lives of its members. Our job, collectively as a Board, has been to research each issue fully, communicate what we learn to the community, and seek broad consensus before taking definitive action.
You may recall the debate over traffic signals versus roundabouts that had sat on the Board’s table for almost 15 years. This Board studied the issue, gathered initial community feedback, and made a preliminary determination to support traffic signals. Then, as we informed the community about why we reached that decision, we learned that in fact there was a broad consensus for roundabouts. So, we took definitive action to support the community consensus and change our position.
As we work with staff on our many important initiatives, we are committed to listening to our community. Many of you are asking questions; we hope this communication is an effective way to provide you with some answers.
What is going on with the Covenant Club? When is it going to the community for a vote? With a price tag of almost $16 million, shouldn’t the project be dead?
To provide perspective, three years ago the RSF Golf Club was concerned about declining membership and hired a consultant to provide ideas on how to attract new members. After surveying members and studying the Golf Club, the consultants recommended adding the three nationally top desired amenities: a pool, casual dining, and a health club. Our Board formed an exploratory committee in collaboration with the Golf and Tennis clubs to research the possibility of a facility with such amenities. The committee met for about a year and brought the concept of the Covenant Club to the membership for a vote. From preliminary estimates, we thought that the club could be built for a little more than $10 million.
After a close but affirmative member vote on the feasibility study, we worked to produce tangible designs and cost estimates so we would have more concrete information before taking definitive action. The design phase took more than 12 months to complete due to the challenges of designing by committee. In the Design Committee’s efforts to address concerns of both the Golf and Tennis clubs, compromises were made, committee votes were taken on every option, and all meetings were open to the public.
As a result of the feasibility study, we discovered that our vision was significantly more costly than previously expected – almost $16 million dollars in total. The largest cost surprise was the redesigned parking lot to serve Golf, Tennis and the Covenant Club that is estimated to cost $4 million dollars. We believe it is prudent that we reassess some aspects of the estimates in hopes to secure some cost reductions.
Staff is working to evaluate the costs for the project as currently configured. In addition the Design Committee will revisit the scope of the project to further reduce costs. Later in the spring, the Covenant Club Committee and staff will present their revised findings in a town hall meeting. The date for that meeting will be announced soon.
Once the Board receives a recommendation for a truly feasible project in terms of cost, scope and timing, we will bring the Covenant Club to a community vote. We are targeting September 2016 for the vote.
Is the Board still considering 95-foot cell towers anywhere in the Covenant of Rancho Santa Fe? We want better cell service but we don’t want those big towers.
A solution to better cell reception has evaded a broad consensus for many years. During the last year or so, to move this necessary project forward, Director Philip Wilkinson led an exhaustive effort on the part of staff and several Board members. This group researched and studied the various options for improving cell coverage with an aim of creating as little infringement as possible on the aesthetics of the Ranch. After significant research and negotiations with many qualified providers over a potential plan, the Board was ready to engage American Tower Corporation to define final locations for the towers and to finally solve the community’s cellular problems.
In bringing this information to the community, we found out fast that many folks were not ready to reach a consensus on a potential course of action that might include 95-foot towers. At an open special meeting, about a hundred members voiced opposition to the plan, including threats of legal action, in person and in writing, that would be taken on behalf of members who lived near any potential locations.
In response to the concerns voiced by many members, the Board has decided to take a step back from the proposed cell tower project. We have instead directed staff to research all possibilities and alternatives for enhanced cell service. To facilitate this open exchange of information, the Board has directed RSFA Planning Director Tom Farrar to shepherd the research phase of the project. Mr. Farrar will make periodic reports on the progress of research at regularly scheduled board meetings. Owners interested in the project should attend, and may contact Mr. Farrar with concerns and comments on the research phase of the project as it proceeds. No decisions will be made unless and until that matter is noticed to the members, likely as a Board meeting agenda item.
As staff evaluates all possible technologies and remedies, member input is welcomed and encouraged. This will be a transparent process with ample opportunity for further owner input before any decision is made on this important issue.
We keep hearing that fiber optic cable is coming to Rancho Santa Fe to improve our internet service. Is that project still alive? When can we expect one 1-gig internet service?
After a year and a half of undertaking serious technical research, studying feasibility, reviewing proposals, giving presentations, and engaging in business negotiations, we have designed a project finance model with one of the leading “over-the-top” service providers in the country to make 1-gigabit internet service available to every home and business in the community.
The best part is, unlike a traditional infrastructure investment, there is the possibility of structuring a deal in which we would get a return on our investment as an owner/partner in the project.
Additionally, we are looking forward to two more bonuses that could come out of the fiber project:
- Improved cell coverage with additional options offered through a fiber backbone in the Ranch.
- Improved infrastructure with the collateral benefit of of a long-term revenue stream and brighter financial future for our Association.
We have done a great deal of work since the initial public presentations by our outside consultants. The Technology Committee has spent considerable time discussing possible deal points and proprietary technologies. We look forward to bringing everyone up to speed on the technology and financial benefits of this project at a future public meeting. There will be many opportunities for member input and participation, so please watch for the upcoming notices.
I heard that there may have been some questions raised about processing a subdivision application last year. What is the issue?
We are very grateful to an alert member who brought the issue to our attention. After hearing the questions, we immediately directed staff to begin investigating the situation and to correct any possible problems, if any are found. The property owners are being very understanding and are cooperating fully. This incident is related to a technical planning issue for the Inn property. As a Board, we must depend on accuracy in the planning and building departments. It appears that staff may have inadvertently failed to correctly characterize the application, which resulted in notice and hearing issues. We are exploring the extent of the problem, and how best to cure any deficiencies in the process. We will keep you updated on this important issue. Every member of the Association Board is committed to upholding our Covenant rules and regulations.
As Board members, we appreciate member concerns as well as community enthusiasm with respect to all of these projects. We are trying to do the best possible job for the entire community, acknowledging diverse interests within the community, and weighing the legitimate concerns of all residents. Your constructive input is always welcome.
I look forward to continued progress and encourage everyone in the community to stay involved. It may seem that we have taken steps backward when we want to be seeing progress. Yet, I firmly believe that these additional steps and our thorough process will ultimately get us to the best solutions for our community.