Cascadel Woods owners association terminated

By Mark Stamas / Guest CommentaryMarch 14, 2013 

The Madera County Board of Supervisors recently voted unanimously to terminate the Cascadel Woods Property Owners Association Operation & Maintenance contract "without cause."

The county has terminated the contract for operation and maintenance of the county owned recreation facilities in Cascadel Woods. These facilities were originally purchased in 1984 for the benefit of Special District County Service Area 21's taxpayers. According to county counsel, the contract was terminated under the 30-day termination clause "without cause." The contract ends March 29.

The question that comes to mind is why? The story of Cascadel's local recreation district is an interesting one. There is plenty of blame to go around, but more interesting is the remarkable way in which a local agency of the state, a true special district public entity, was taken over by a small private corporation, until now.

The beginning

Cascadel Ranch was a 480 acre ranch in North Fork and in 1957 a subdivision began. A final subdivision was created in 1963, Tract 119. The developer was Cascadel Ranch Properties Inc., now defunct. The rest of the ranch has been parceled off, including Cascadel Heights and other outlying parcels.

Cascadel Ranch included use of a nine hole golf course with their lots. The deed restrictions applied only to aesthetic considerations, had no assessment authority, and did not include roads. The CC&Rs expired in the 80s. Cascadel Ranch Properties Inc. maintained the recreation facilities and the roads.

By 1963 Cascadel Ranch Properties was failing. They changed the CC&Rs to escape recreation facilities maintenance, and eventually abandoned road maintenance. In 1963 the property owners association was organized as a social club, a property owners' advocate, and to enforce the CC&Rs. County road maintenance was sought but not achieved. By the mid 1960s the property owners association was filling potholes and eventually handling snow removal.

Cascadel Ranch Properties wanted to sell off its remaining property, including the golf course land, so the property association sued CRP to stop the sale. The golf course land was ordered to be kept "recreational," but allowed to be sold off.

New land owner

CRP sold the clubhouse and grounds. The new owner and the property owners association got into a dispute, the result of which was the county buying the property for the newly formed recreation facilities district (County Service Area 21). In 1984, the district was formed and the property was paid off over the next several years by assessments on the district residents.

At the time of district formation, the association and the county entered into a service agreement for "operation and maintenance" of the county facilities. These services were to be provided at association's "entire and complete expense." After the property was paid off, assessments continued and the contract remained in place. However, according to the more recent 2008 Municipal Services Review (MSR), a rather interesting practice of recreation operation and maintenance costs being charged to the district through "reimbursement" to the association began.

Over the years, more and more of the association's cost of operation was charged to the recreation district through this "reimbursement." The practice continued unabated until last year. By 2012, the "reimbursement" amount requested by the association for administration only, had reached 80% of the assessment total, and according to the current county auditor, the total "reimbursements" have exceeded assessments substantially for the last four years running. Reserves are gone.

Municipal Advisory Committee

The board of supervisors formed an independent Municipal Advisory Committee under district law to advise them and help sort our this mess. Subsequently, county staff recommended a "clean slate" approach by terminating the old contract and starting fresh. The supervisors took this action on Feb. 26.

Moving forward, the new advisory committee will hopefully be tasked with:

Completing a full audit and report.

Creating a framework for operation and maintenance, derived from recommendations of county staff and, land management and fire safety experts.

An election procedure that prevents future conflicts of interest.

Community outreach and education.

The future for Cascadel's Special District County Service Area 21 appears very bright indeed.

Mark Stamas is a 32-year resident of Cascadel Woods and was a member of the Municipal Advisory Committee.

Mark Stamas is a 32-year resident of Cascadel Woods and was a member of the Municipal Advisory Committee.

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