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Rancho Diego PRD zone dissolved


Last updated 7/3/2008 at Noon

Although a new benefit zone to provide road maintenance for Monserate Hill Road and the streets off that road will likely be created, the entity known as Permanent Road Division Zone No. 14 has been dissolved.

A 4-0 San Diego County Board of Supervisors vote June 18, with Supervisor Ron Roberts absent, adopted a resolution ordering the dissolution of PRD Zone No. 14 without an election.

“It’s lived out its time,” said Supervisor Bill Horn. “It doesn’t make sense for us to continue.”

PRD Zone No. 14 originated as County Service Area No. 14, also known as Rancho Diego. County Service Areas are dependent special districts, whose board members are the Board of Supervisors but which have local advisory committees. County

Service Area No. 14 was formed in 1968 and covered 1.64 miles of road.

Although the only roads to benefit from County Service Area No. 14 were Monserate Hill Road, Monserate Hill Place, Monserate Hill Court, and Fire Road, the official boundaries of County Service Area No. 14 extended west to the boundary of Gird Road, east to the boundary of Star Track Way and the end of Sumac Road, and north to the end of Pala Mesa Lane as well as south to the boundary of State Route 76. The homes on Sarah Ann Drive and that road’s side streets are within the boundaries of the former district, although they never received any benefit.

The creation of a County Service Area allowed road repair and maintenance for roads not in the county-maintained system. Property owners are assessed for the repairs. The financing mechanism may include an annual assessment to cover loans or provide reserves, or one-time assessments to cover specific projects may be approved.

Because a County Service Area is a special district in itself, any boundary changes as well as creations of new County Service Areas must undergo the Local Agency Formation Commission process. Because a Permanent Road Division is not considered a special district, the creation or adjustment of a Permanent Road Division is not subject to LAFCO review. In February 1998 the Board of Supervisors approved the use of the Permanent Road Division alternative for property owners to maintain or improve roads. In February 2000 the supervisors approved the creation of Permanent Road Division No. 1000, which covers the entire unincorporated area under County of San Diego jurisdiction, and incorporated the existing PRDs as zones within PRD No. 1000.

The LAFCO process was required to replace the existing County Service Areas which provided road service with Permanent Road Division zones, although that process was completed in 2000 and those zones were incorporated into the countywide PRD. County Service Area No. 14 was replaced with Permanent Road Division Zone No. 14.

PRD Zone No. 14 received a small portion of the one percent property tax paid by property owners, and the current fiscal year’s revenue was approximately $320. The administrative costs alone exceeded the district’s revenue. “We would basically be subsidizing the administrative cost with general fund money,” said county Department of Public Works deputy director Donna Turbyfill.

The district had not imposed any assessments and had been inactive for several years. A new assessment would not only require a public vote but would also require an updated Engineer’s Report which would also evaluate the benefit formula. In April notices of the intent to dissolve PRD Zone No. 14 were mailed to more than 100 property owners, and the Department of Public Works received only one letter in opposition.

The requirements to create a new Permanent Road Division zone also include an Engineer’s Report as well as a vote of affected property owners. The process begins with the Department of Public Works providing a preliminary boundary map to see which parcels would benefit from the new zone, and the Department of Public Works then provides petitions to an interested property owner. If 60 percent of property owners sign the petition, an Engineer’s Report is obtained.

The county supervisors then authorize a mail ballot proceeding, adopt a resolution of intent, and set a date for the public hearing date to form a PRD zone. Ballots will be mailed to property owners, and a majority of the weighted vote is needed to create the zone. “It will be weighted based on the benefit,” said Michele Stress, the special districts program coordinator for the Department of Public Works.

The cost share assessed to each parcel is determined by the amount of benefit it receives from the improvement. The ballots will include the time, date, and location of the public hearing as well as the assessment authorization amount.

Philip Anthony of Monserate Hill Road expressed his concerns to the county supervisors about the dissolution of PRD Zone No. 14. “These private road divisions are absolutely essential to maintaining roads in areas like this,” he said. “It’s very dangerous to lose these things.”

Anthony noted that the word “permanent” in the entity’s name indicated that it was intended to provide long-term solutions. “This is a role of government,” he said. “The public alone cannot do it.”

Anthony and Stress met after the Board of Supervisors hearing, and both were supportive of creating a new PRD zone. “We’ll do a whole new formation,” Stress said. “I can give them a petition tomorrow.”

The new district will likely include only the original roads benefiting from the maintenance. “The boundary would be smaller,” Stress said. “It has to be based on benefit to the properties.”

The requirement that a petition be signed by 60 percent of the property owners creates a strong likelihood of passage once a mail ballot is authorized. If a new zone is created, the county’s costs to process the formation will be included in the zone’s expense. The county will absorb the processing cost if the formation is not approved. The assessment would first take effect in the following July-June property tax year.

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