Supes decline private roads

Ridgemark residents pack meeting, but lawsuit-shy supervisors
vote down plan that would charge homeowners for street repairs
Leery of facing legal responsibility for another taxing district
after the costly Rancho Larios legal battle over water, the Board
of Supervisors voted against taking on Ridgemark’s road system.
Ridgemark residents pack meeting, but lawsuit-shy supervisors vote down plan that would charge homeowners for street repairs

Leery of facing legal responsibility for another taxing district after the costly Rancho Larios legal battle over water, the Board of Supervisors voted against taking on Ridgemark’s road system.

With the Ridgemark Corp. looking to give up control of the assortment of roads built piece-meal as the development grew, homeowners had asked to expand the terms of their County Service Area so they could tax themselves and pay the county for paving and other repairs.

The county, however, is leery that the private roads do not meet standards for width, curbing and guttering. Officials are afraid of future liability – including damage caused by flooding – that might come because of it.

“What person would assume liability – any liability – for roads that don’t meet county standards?” said Supervisor Richard Scagliotti to the scores of Ridgemark retirees that packed the board’s chambers.

Ridgemark Corp. is planning to sell the roads to a private party, said president Ken Bettencourt, if the issue isn’t resolved by the end of the year. Residents believe the buyer is neighboring landowner Roy Lompa, who needs access to land he owns in order to develop it. Lompa did not return a telephone call asking for comment by press time.

While each homeowner currently pays $74 a year in road assessments, they fear if someone buys the private roads that price will rise.

Ridgemark was formed to develop the golf club project, but as build out nears and with the denial of its next project, the Paicines Ranch resort, the company no longer serves a purpose, Bettencourt said.

“There’s no reason for Ridgemark Corporation to exist after the county denied the Paicines Ranch project,” said Bettencourt, who said the company’s land holdings now consist of just the roads in the Ridgemark gated community.

The county wants Ridgemark homeowners to form a Community Services District, which would allow them to elect representatives to collect the tax and decide road-repair issues, like any other taxing district in the county.

“You would have control of your destiny and no county interference,” Supervisor Ron Rodrigues, who represents the South County district that Ridegmark is in. “This will make it a clean deal for you. You’ll have the legal right to collect fees and maintain the roads.”

Ridgemark already has its own County Service Area wherein the residents are charged for services – such as fire and police protection — through property taxes, but road maintenance is not part of the deal.

The county said it was having trouble getting a consensus on whether the majority of Ridgemark residents even want the county to supervise road repairs. There are seven different homeowners’ associations within the vast subdivision of 1,159 homes nestled amid the golf course and country club. Ones that already have curbs and gutters, for instance, don’t want to subsidize those that don’t.

Bettencourt said that two years ago, the Ridgemark Homeowners Association

filed suit against Ridgemark Corp. to fix the roads. A settlement was reached – with the county’s blessing, said Bettencourt – and Ridgemark Corp. spent $700,000 on the roads.

“The homeowners say ‘we want you to fix them,’ and ‘no we don’t want to own them.’ It doesn’t make sense for the Ridgemark Corp.,” said Bettencourt.

Not all of the residents were in favor of a county takeover at the meeting Tuesday.

“I oppose it,” said resident John Giannetto. “I believe the streets belong to the homeowners. The developer didn’t uphold his end of the obligation.”

Others were frustrated by residents’ inability to work out a solution and wanted the county to intervene.

“We’ve tried for years to form umbrella groups (to handle it) but it hasn’t worked,” countered Doug Boyce. “Please help us.”

According to Public Works Director Doug Koenig, none of the streets are built to public road standards. Some of the roads have drainage, others get flooded during winter and none were constructed with the appropriate base rock beneath them.

“Every section is different,” said Koenig. “Every section is used by a different homeowners group. There are different expectations. And all the costs would be shared by everyone.”

Some residents asked that the vote be postponed so that the homeowners could study their options further. Others were in favor of including the road maintenance in the CSA that already exists.

“What we need is a method of gathering funds for the future of those roads,” said Leonard Gomes. “How does this have a negative impact on anybody?”

The diversity of opinion bolstered Rodrigues, who stood up holding a handful of questionnaires he sent to the residents in an attempt to draw a consensus. He said it was impossible to tell and suggested forming a district with elected officers responsible for operations.

Rodrigues told them that the Local Agency Formation Commission would have to approve the new taxing district, but that would buy time for the homeowners to figure out the details. The audience responded with angry groans and yells like, “Oh, baloney!”

Chairman Rita Bowling banged the gavel for order.

Scagliotti said that the county is currently embroiled in CSA litigation for $700,000 – though he didn’t mention the Aromas Water District and Rancho Larios’ CSA 40 by names – and added “$74 could easily become $7,400 by the end of the year.” The county had to intervene in a suit when the Aromas Water District tried to nullify a contract to provide water to the development, which formed a CSA for its water agreement.

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