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Planning Committee recommends abandoning land-use study

Insurance crisis cited as the top priority right now


Monday, April 22 (8:30 a.m.): The proposed GRF study of a possible future sale of the Garden Club property off Tice Valley Boulevard and/or the east side of Terra Granada Drive at Grey Eagle Drive soon may be off the table for at least the near future, as the GRF Planning Committee voted unanimously Thursday for the GRF Board to remove the plan from “immediate consideration.”

The planned study of whether selling either or both of those parcels to raise money for GRF capital projects is workable had generated widespread criticism from Rossmoor residents, especially members of the Garden Club and residents living near Terra Granada and Grey Eagle drives.

GRF General Manager Jeff Matheson said public opinion of the study “certainly spun far beyond what the intent of the study was” – to gauge the parcels’ development potential as part of future financial planning. Rossmoor, Matheson added, has other higher-priority issues that demand GRF’s attention, including the pressing insurance/mortgage problems and negotiations to renew the GRF Trust Agreement governing ownership, maintenance and operations of Rossmoor’s shared amenities for the benefit of the Mutuals.

“There are certainly higher priorities in the community,” Matheson told the Planning Committee. The Planning Committee voted unanimously, 4-0, to recommend that the GRF Board remove the “yield study” from immediate consideration. The Board is expected to make a final decision on that at its Thursday, April 25 meeting.

The Planning Committee voted in January to hire Walnut Creek-based LCA Architects to analyze the two parcels’ development potential, develop an estimated value of the parcels based on the number of homes that could be built on each, and analyze the various steps needed to do that. At the time, Matheson described it as a “a very, very first step toward understanding what’s even possible” on each of those parcels. Before any decision about selling either parcel was to be made, further studies would be required, he said.

The full GRF Board later in January referred the plan back to the Planning Committee, where it had remained until last week.

Starting almost immediately, resident backlash to the plan began. Members of the Garden Club said moving the garden plots, if a suitable place were even found, would undermine years of work at the site off Tice Valley Boulevard, and would be expensive. People living near the Terra Granada/ Grey Eagle intersection said they were told the area (and Rossmoor in general) was built out, and that there wouldn’t be any construction in the immediate area. Most subsequent public GRF meetings featured some residents calling for the yield study to be shelved.

At least 25 people crowded the Gateway board room Thursday, and right after the Planning Committee took its vote about the yield study, most of them quietly filed out of the room. One who stayed was Kathleen Solares, who showed a page of petition signatures from people who wanted the yield study (also called the land-use study) permanently shelved.

“It still feels tentative,” said Solares, asking whether it’s safe for gardeners to invest more time and money in their Tice Valley Boulevard plots once again.

Indeed, the GRF Board must still vote on whether to suspend the yield study. And Planning Committee Chair Leanne Hamaji cautioned that even if the Board upholds that recommendation, “it’s still possible we may have to do a land-use study in the future.” Such a yield study, Hamaji said, is “an essential tool to discuss facts about what the possibilities are.”

Matheson said that while GRF’s Trust Estate Fund is in “good shape,” the need for money to spend on capital projects isn’t going away anytime soon, with potentially expensive decisions of the future of the Mutual Operations Department (MOD) building and the GRF-owned medical building, a “vast array” of other possible capital projects and three outstanding loans with balances totaling approximately $14.7 million (with monthly debt service being paid from the Trust Estate Fund) still owed.

“There are a lot of things in play,” Matheson said.