The December Board meeting had a fair bit of member input. Quite a bit of feedback was about the thorny issue of exterior landscape uplighting which I documented in a separate article here. I also wrote a separate article about the Recreational Campus Refurbishment project here.
Member Input: Out of Control Party
Approximately 200 partygoers, many of whom were teenagers, attended a house party on an otherwise sleepy Rancho street a week ago. A long line of police cars came bustling in to break up the party resulting in dozens of kids jumping fences to get away and getting lost in the dark labyrinth between houses. It was quite the scene.
A member, whose property ended up being an impromptu evacuation route for some hapless teens, complained about the lack of a short term rental regulation during member input.
There’s a lot to unpack here, let me try to provide some background and context.
People who know the VRBO house owner say that he would never have condoned such a party. Indeed as I write this, it isn’t even clear the house was rented at the time of the party. Party organizers sometimes target unrented VRBO locations and simply use the backyard as a party spot, risking trespass since it is hard to prove trespass intent on such a large group of people (“I had no idea the house wasn’t rented”). Regardless, no house rental owner would knowingly allow such a large party due to the damage that they inevitably cause.
A quick check on VRBO shows about 30 active listings for houses in Rancho. Add in other rental services, and you have probably 50-75 houses or parts of houses out of 2,000 listed for rent at any one time.
Association president Dan Comstock asked the Patrol how often these large parties occur in Rancho and the answer was about once per year.
The Association tried to adopt a short term rental regulation five years ago, but the regulation was so stringent that it generated a lot of community push back to the point where it was dropped from consideration. This article explains what was in that proposed regulation and this article reports on more community reaction against it.
The Association is currently operating without either a noise regulation or a short term rental regulation, but the County Sheriff will either break up parties or tell smaller parties to take it inside after a 10:00pm County noise curfew. If such a party occurs near you, don’t freak out if you see hordes of teenagers jumping your fence after police arrive – they are as scared as you are and just want to get the heck out of dodge!
As far as this Board taking on the task of writing either a noise or rental regulation, I refer you to this article I recently wrote. We are still dealing with a backlog of regulations from the last several years of very regulation-busy Boards leaving us very little staff and Board bandwidth to contemplate new regulations until we clear out the backlog. Already we have members who have asked for new regulations on noise, short term rentals and vineyards.
In the meantime, I would urge all property owners who rent out their properties, and also ones that do not reside at their houses all the time, to install a few Internet accessible video cameras so they can monitor activity from time to time. A good video camera pointed to a part of the backyard that shouldn’t have any movement (ie. no foliage that can get blown by wind), which sends a text alert when movement is detected along with video footage is highly recommended. Nothing breaks up a party before it really gets going faster than a police car in front of the house.
You can also make sure the Association has your current cell phone number on file should the Patrol want to reach out to you to report some large gathering of people at your house.
Member Input: Tree Replanting Along Golf Course Riding Trail
Holly Manion complained that there has been no progress to replant trees along the walking/equestrian trail that rings the golf course.
I subsequently asked Association General Manager Dominique Albrecht about the status of the replanting committee and she said work was progressing. They will likely shortly hire a consultant who will put together a tree replanting plan in consultation with the golf course and the Forest Committee. Buy in from all parties is necessary if for no other reason to ensure that new trees get adequately watered while they develop deep roots.
Member Input: Non-Resident Members
Rory Kendall suggested that the Association adopt new rules forbidding members who are non-resident (ie. they own Covenant property, but live elsewhere) from being appointed to any and all committees. He suggested that members should have resided here for at least five years before being able to serve on a committee.
Crime Ring Busted
The Country Sheriff informs us that various enforcement organizations have recently shut down the South American crime ring that had been targeting Rancho with burglaries.
Board President Dan Comstock appointed two new Art Jurors out of a pool of four applicants. Kelli Hillard had been appointed six months ago to fill in an unexpected vacancy and she was re-appointed for a new full three year term. Janet McVeigh, who had served as an Art Juror three years ago, was also appointed for a new three year term.
The aforementioned Forest Health & Preservation committee has lots of spots available on it and is looking for new volunteers.
The previous Board had launched a sidewalk renewal project for two village sidewalks that had fallen into disrepair. After obtaining permits and having various agencies request changes, the cost of the project increased $48K to $134K in total (including a new 20% contingency fee) for 500 total lineal feet of new concrete sidewalk.
Public road sidewalk repair and maintenance is normally borne by the County, but the previous Board had decided to move this project along and spend Association funds for it since Association members were being negatively impacted by substandard sidewalks. Construction should start soon. See the following maps for the impacted areas.
Valet Parking Trial
The Association clubhouse restaurant is getting night time valet parking on a trial basis for the next three months. During these dark months, and with our sketchy lighting in the parking lot, some members have requested that we have valet parking available.
Wednesday through Sunday, from 5pm to 9pm, curbside valet parking will be available for restaurant patrons. The Golf Club and the Association are each paying $8,500 to fund this service. Data and feedback will be collected during this trial period. Patrons will incur no charge for this service. Tipping is optional.
The Association accepted a land grant of 24 acres called the Ewing Preserve from the non-profit RSF Foundation. This too was a hold over project from the previous Board (property title due diligence needed to be performed). The rugged land forms of the Preserve contain a series of trails and is connected to our extensive equestrian trail network.
The Nature Collective deeded the property to the RSF Foundation in 1984 and restricted its use to open space as a natural area preserve. The RSF Association has exclusively managed the Ewing Preserve since 1989 as a private open space for members that included vegetation management and the creation of a private trail easement.
Part of the reason the Association accepted the land donation was to better control fire risk. Upon transfer, the Association will proceed with vegetation work to complete the first phase of a multi-phase approach to creating a fire-safe environment in the Ewing Preserve. The RSF Foundation committed approximately $130,000 funding this fiscal year towards mitigating hazardous fire conditions.
During the Board meeting, I asked staff to make sure information on how to access the Preserve is uploaded onto the member website. Signage and parking information should follow. Here is a short video introducing members to the Preserve.
Something I Didn’t Get To Talk About
This Board meeting ran long, and the executive session in particular ran quite long – we all raced back to executive session after the open Board meeting concluded and thus I wasn’t able to discuss the suggestion described here.
One of the reasons we have long executive sessions is dealing with fines for unapproved construction – either no permit was obtained or the scope of work exceeded the obtained permit.
Members only hear about this in a single anodyne sentence every open Board meeting “In executive session, the Board considered member fines for unapproved construction”. Fines are considered and discussed in executive session to protect member privacy and to not air potential dirty laundry in front of the public.
Unfortunately this results in a missed opportunity to remind people, every month, that there are negative consequences to unpermitted construction.
In these meetings, many members profess to not knowing that building a fence, or a covered horse cross tie required an Association permit (and Art Jury review).
As I previously documented in an article I wrote, obtaining Art Jury review need not be complicated for relatively minor construction. But obtaining an as-built approval after the fact is a giant pain in the butt for everyone concerned. Especially when Art Jury approval requires a minor modification – or rather it would have been minor before construction, but is expensive after construction.
So, as a way of helping to further educate and remind members about the necessity of Art Jury approval, I’d like to suggest that staff’s open Board meeting report contain a bit more information every month. We still need to respect privacy concerns, but the report could say things like:
- A $2,000 fine has handed out for unapproved fence construction.
- A $5,000 fine was charged for unpermitted garage construction.
- Weekly fines were charged for unpermitted construction which has been unresolved for three years after six Art Jury meetings.
What do you think? Is it a good idea to expand the information disseminated about fines like this during the open Board meetings?
I’d like to get your feedback (just reply to the email blast email or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org) and don’t hesitate to tell me my head is full of mush for this idea, or that I’m the most brilliant guy in the Covenant for thinking about this.