Manteca needs a uniform city policy when it comes to landscape maintenance districts.
At least that is what Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford wants to see in the aftermath of the second neighborhood in two years being up in arms about being told they will have to soon start paying annual assessments for park improvements that are about to be put in place
Some Union Ranch homeowners have been living in their residences for two years yet their neighborhood park is simply weeds and dirt. And now the city - instead of the developer - is moving forward with putting the park in place and forming a landscaping maintenance district to pay for the upkeep of the improvements expected to get underway in the fall.
Assistant City Manager Karen McLaughlin noted that instead of the developer being reimbursed with park fees after they put the park in place as called for under the developer agreement, the city will use the fees to pay a contractor themsleves to do the work.
Seven homeowners addressed the council Tuesday questioning everything from the legality of the city’s ability to assess them for 100 percent of the cost to the method used to determine annual assessments. Other neighbors were in the audience. One went as far as to call such districts essentially a way to protect the jobs of city workers.
The initial year’s assessment that could go into effect sometime after July 1 is $496. The assessment could cap out at $715 a year per parcel when all improvements are completed. The money is to cover upkeep and maintenance of a neighborhood park, common landscaping and a segment for the future extension of the Tidewater Bikeway north of Lathrop Road.
Those figures are contrary to what some homebuyers were told by a developer’s sales associates who put on paper that the cost would be $517 a year. McLaughlin said that number was essentially “pulled out of the hat” by builders since a study hadn’t even been done at that point to determine what a LMD would cost and what each parcel would be assessed.
Manteca - and other cities - often use LMDs to make sure there are adequate funds to maintain common neighborhood landscaping, parks, and even street lighting on new neighborhoods.
In the case of the two neighborhoods where controversies have been triggered over the implementation of an LMD - Union Ranch East in north Manteca and Tesoro in southwest Manteca - both involved projects where a developer had purchased the land and approved subdivision map from Atherton Homes.
A third neighborhood - Del Webb at Woodbridge - had rumblings about an LMD that was exclusively set up for peripheral neighborhood landscaping.
Questions about how costs for the Union Ranch LMD were determined will be addressed at a workshop with the parcel owners planned for June 14 at the Manteca Senior Center prior to a council decision on whether to seek an election of property owners to see if there is support to form an LMD.
Historically, developers have cast their votes in favor of the LMDs as the establishment of an election with costs paid for by the developers to conduct the voting is part of development agreements. It also helps them have a park in place that is able to attract subsequent buyers. The developer owns the majority of the parcels at Union Ranch.
Weatherford said that while it is too late to address the current LMD that is going through the approval and implementation process, he wants to see the city come up with a uniform policy in terms of how it approaches formation of such districts and what is covered in the monthly charges.
The Union Ranch LMD, for example, will include park and common area landscaping as well as costs related to helping pay for the upkeep and the replacement of more expensive Tidewater-style street lights.
“They (the LMDs) need to all be uniform across the board,” Weatherford said of those LMDs that come about in the future.