Future landscape maintenance districts in Manteca formed as part of new neighborhoods could include the cost of electricity for street lights and maintaining streets within the subdivision.
Mayor Willie Weatherford said it is something the city needs to consider given the new dynamics in funding municipal services triggered by the mortgage meltdown and complicated by state grabs of money that normally flowed into municipal general funds.
State law allows landscape maintenance districts (LMD) to include maintenance of common landscaping in subdivisions including parks, maintenance of sound walls, replacement and maintenance of street lighting fixtures, the cost of subdivision street light electricity, and maintenance of streets within the subdivision.
All of the costs are now borne by the city in areas without LMDs. Most non-LMD neighborhoods do not have common landscaping that enhance the looks of the overall neighborhood.
“The time to do it (add street light electricity costs and street maintenance) would be at the time subdivisions are being formulated,” Weatherford said.
That way all costs would be clear to homebuyers. In the past, that was what happened with LMDs. But in the case of Tesoro and Union Ranch, the original maps and agreements were submitted by Atherton Homes and approved by the city and then sold to Woodside Homes. Home construction started in both cases without the park and landscaping being installed first as has happened in the past. As a result, homes had been sold when the LMD formation vote was taken.
In an ideal situation, the election is held before a home is sold making all exact costs clear to the buyer,
Votes in LMDs are determined under state law and are awarded to each parcel within the district being formed regardless of size. If 25 acres is subdivided into 100 paper lots, that creates 100 votes with each lot having a vote. If the election is held before homes are sold, the developer casts all of the votes.
As long as the election is held before half of the lots are sold, the district will be formed. That’s because of language in subdivision agreements that require developers to maintain and upkeep landscaping - and in the case of more recent LMDs park maintenance - until such time a LMD is formed.
The developer would be on the hook in perpetuity for the park and maintenance upkeep if they did not vote to have an LMD formed.
Park maintenance has been added to the LMD for the last four subdivisions approved by the city including Union Ranch that is now in the formation process.
The Union Ranch LMD also would include the cost of replacing the more expensive decorative street lighting that replicates the look along the Tidewater Bike Path and in downtown Manteca.
The LMD would also cover the cost of maintaining the future extension of the Tidewater along the eastern edge of the neighborhood.
That is similar to the Paseo LMD that encompasses the bike paths along Wellington Avenue and Atherton Drive. There are three city-formed LMDs that already include bicycle path maintenance as well as a private LMD in Spreckels Park that covers the upkeep of the Spreckels Avenue bike path.
Weatherford noted ideally they’d be a citywide district to pay for street lighting. He seriously doubted that existing parcel owners would vote for such a tax.
He added it seems reasonable to have someone wishing to move into a new home in future developments to cover lighting and street maintenance costs as well as parks. If not, Weatherford said the city would be facing a situation where growth would overwhelm the city’s ability to pay for basic services.