16 April 2015The City Council met in regular session and decided to "oppose the CV Link route alignment over the Butler-Abrams Trail and to oppose the CV Link route alignment at the Highway 111/Paxtron Drive at grade crossing and support the realignment of the route on the south side of Highway 111 with an underpass crossing at the Magnesia Falls flood control channel."
- "Bruce B. Harry, Director of Public Works, provided the staff report and displayed photographs of the areas that would be affected as they exist today and renderings of the two CV Link routes as proposed by CVAG. Mr. Harry recommended the City Council take formal action to oppose the two proposed CV Link positioning over the Butler Abrams Trail.
- "Sondra Jones, Rancho Mirage, said she believes she speaks for all of the homeowners who live in Thunderbird Villas, Thunderbird Heights and Thunderbird Cove and does not see this CV Link proposal as beneficial in any way to the homeowners of these communities, which would be directly in front of all three. This project would be extremely detrimental to the aesthetics and property values of all the homes affected from Paxton Drive to Country Club Drive. She further stated these communities are high- end, secluded, private and well maintained and they want to keep them that way. She said their concerns are that this proposal would create a traffic hazard, an increase in crime and vandalism and they do not support it.
- "Mayor Hobart clarified that while the Coachella Valley Association of Governments ( CVAG) has the power of imminent domain, any city, by a majority vote of the council, may reject their application for imminent domain and thereby prevents [sic] it. He noted that CVAG is very aware that the City of Rancho Mirage will not support any effort of condemnation of property. By way of background, Mayor Hobart clarified that the CV Link has been in progress for several years and has expanded from a bike and walking path to a path for walking, bikes, golf carts and electric powered vehicles that do not exceed 25 MPH. He added that the CV Link would basically follow the wash from Palm Springs to Coachella, except through Rancho Mirage where there are four different golf courses in the wash area. Mayor Hobart expressed sympathy and concern for the Rancho Mirage residents and businesses along the proposed path and assured that all that the City Council is dedicated to addressing this issue.
- "Denise Roberge, Rancho Mirage, commented that 13 years ago she built a home in Rancho Mirage on the Butler-Abrams Trail. Ms. Roberge displayed an aerial photograph of her home showing that the proposed CV Link roadway would go directly in front of her home and be 10 feet from her kitchen and bedroom windows, in addition to a proposed access road adjacent to the side of her home. Ms. Roberge feels this would make her home unlivable and unsellable as well as affecting other properties for sale around it. She appealed to the City Council to fight this project.
- "Dan Smith, President of Thunderbird Villas, noted he is also representing Thunderbird Country Club and Thunderbird Cove. He noted that the proposed roadway would go through their entry gate and would cause major traffic issues. It would also impact the fire station. He noted that his association has consulted legal counsel and is prepared to file a lawsuit if necessary. They are also very concerned about the close proximity of the roadway to homes causing security and crime issues. Mr. Smith requested that Mr. Quintanilla attend their homeowners association board meeting on April 17, if possible. In response to questions regarding funding for project maintenance, Mayor Hobart clarified that the City Council unanimously voted to disapprove of the funding process that CVAG has been proposing
which was the use of 8% of the City' s Transient Occupancy Taxes (TOT) over the past year. Mr. Quintanilla suggested that he also provide Mr. Smith all the relevant documents the City has received from CVAG.
- "Sid Hubbard, Thunderbird Heights, commented that he shares the concerns already expressed and the awkward access issues that would result. Mr. Hubbard asked that the Council include in
their motion that they are in favor of restricting the width of the pathway if necessary.
- "Donnie Hubbard spoke in favor of the Council' s motion regarding the Butler -Abrams Trail. She shared her advocacy of trails but opposes this proposed roadway. In addition, Mrs. Hubbard noted that she knew Mr. Butler, for whom' the trail was named, and felt he would be horrified to know what was being proposed by CVAG. In response to questions, Mr. Harry noted that CVAG is just starting an environmental impact study which will include public hearings and will take at least one year to complete.
- "Mary Jane Feliz, Thunderbird Cove, shared that she loves living in this area and cannot imagine what would happen if this project were allowed to proceed. Ms. Feliz also implored the City Council not to allow this to happen.
- "Murray Bryant, Rancho Mirage, noted that he has two properties that back up to the Butler -Abrams Trail and is supportive of the City Council' s opposition to the routes as proposed. Mr. Bryant acknowledged that while the Councilmembers may receive a lot of criticism from the other cities, the residents of Rancho Mirage will fully support the City Council in their opposition to this project. He added that he also feels it would negatively impact his neighborhood and property values.
- "Lisa McFadden, daughter of John McFadden who previously served as Mayor of Rancho Mirage, made comments in strong opposition to the CV Link project. She noted that her family owns six acres of property along the Butler -Abrams Trail and this would have a devastating impact on them. Ms. McFadden thanked the City Council for their hard work and encouraged their continued opposition in this matter.
- "There being no further comments, the Public Hearing was closed.
- "MOVED/ SECONDED BY HOBART/ WEILL TO OPPOSE THE CV LINK ROUTE ALIGNMENT OVER THE BUTLER- ABRAMS TRAIL AND TO OPPOSE THE CV LINK ROUTE ALIGNMENT AT THE HIGHWAY 111/ PAXTON DRIVE AT GRADE CROSSING AND SUPPORT THE REALIGNMENT OF THE ROUTE ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF HIGHWAY 111 WITH AN UNDERPASS CROSSING AT THE MAGNESIA FALLS FLOOD CONTROL CHANNEL.
- "City Council/ Board Member Comments
- "Mayor Hobart reported that it wasn' t until March 30, 2015 that the City became aware of CVAG' s proposed method of payment for the CV Link, which includes taking 8% of the increase from the prior year of the City' s Transient Occupancy Tax ( TOT) reserves. Mayor Hobart noted this formula for payment was determined with no input from the City of Rancho Mirage and would be disproportionately high for those cities with higher TOT than others.
- "Mayor Hobart also commented on the cost of maintaining the Rancho Mirage portion of the CV Link on an annual basis. He noted that a motion was recently put before the Transportation Committee of CVAG, chaired by Mayor Pro Tem Weill, that the projected cost of operating and maintaining the CV Link is 1. 6 million dollars per year when the 50 - mile project is fully constructed. Mayor Hobart clarified these are the projected costs for the first year only and would undoubtedly be higher at the actual time of completion and every year thereafter. As a comparison, he cited an example of the American River Parkway project in San Francisco, a 26 -mile running/ biking path with a budget of 2. 9 million dollars to maintain for 2014/ 2015, which is half the length of the proposed CV Link project. The projected cost of operating the CV Link is 3. 5 million dollars for 2014/ 2015.
- "Mayor Hobart reviewed the cost of the CV Link project if based solely on the number of miles of CV Link per city, which would be $ 150, 000 in Rancho Mirage. However, to reduce the operations and maintenance costs, he noted that CVAG has proposed that approximately one- third of those costs be covered by Measure A funds. Mayor Hobart stated the cost to Rancho Mirage, using the TOT formula referenced earlier, is projected to be $ 122, 000 in FY2019/ 2020, with incremental increases each year to an estimated $ 312, 000 in FY2023.
- "Reading from the CVAG report, Mayor Hobart indicated that once approved by a majority of the cities, CVAG would be permitted to use its Measure A revenues for preventative maintenance of the CV Link, which CVAG has labeled a " regional arterial."
- "In summary, Mayor Hobart stated that the City Council sees the CV Link project as impeding traffic, impeding access to business, impeding access to residences in many communities and, therefore, is in no way favorable to the interests of Rancho Mirage. The City' s preference would be that the CV Link circumvent Rancho Mirage and find another route. He alsoe noted that the funding issue would need to be addressed in a very serious manner, which would likely begin with limiting the project to a bicycle and jogging path. Further, Mayor Hobart stated that before CVAG proceeds further they need to find a way to significantly reduce the cost of operations and maintenance that cities can buy into and not put future generations into serious financial difficulties.
- "Finance Director Isaiah Hagerman stated that the TOT funding formula for the CV Link project results in an unfair allocation of costs and results in TOT producing cities paying for the maintenance costs of low or non -TOT producing cities. Mr. Hagerman noted that the concept of setting the year 2016 TOT revenue as the base year and then charging cities 8% of the growth in TOT revenue in the future years, will inherently increase the City of Rancho Mirage' s annual contribution over time. As revenue grows over time and the base year is frozen, the 8% factor will grow as well. For the City of Rancho Mirage, he stated that the first year CVAG is proposing to begin charging cities 8% of growth would be in the year 2017 and would cost $ 28, 350 and increase nine years later to over $ 312, 000. Mr. Hagerman indicated that TOT represents approximately 30% of general funds revenue for the City of Rancho Mirage and the concept of committing such a large amount of future TOT revenue to the CV Link operations and maintenance costs in perpetuity would have a very negative impact to Rancho Mirage.
- "City Manager Randal Bynder noted that he recently reported at the Coachella Valley Water District ( CVWD) Board meeting that the Butler -Abrams Trail is a long established rural trail and has historical significance to the Rancho Mirage community. He explained that the City of Rancho Mirage has an easement to use that trail but the CVWD owns the land. Therefore, Mr. Bynder requested that the CVWD not grant an easement to CVAG over the Butler -Abrams Trail.
- "Mr. Bynder also commented that approximately two weeks ago, he requested that CVAG have another public workshop on the CV Link. A meeting was subsequently held in the community room at the Rancho Mirage Public Library; however, Mr. Bynder has been concerned that CVAG has not been adequately notifying adjacent property owners as the CV Link has been discussed over the past few years. Therefore, City staff recently distributed the public hearing notice flyer and sent it to adjacent property homeowners associations and residents that are directly affected by the CV Link. Mr. Bynder noted that the CVAG Executive Committee, which consists of all the city mayors and county representatives, has not approved the CV Link master plan and it is still in a draft form. He noted that while some of Rancho Mirage city officials and staff may have voted in the past for the concept to move forward, none of the details discussed at today' s meeting were known at that time. The scope of the CV Link project has grown substantially and Mr. Bynder stated that City officials will approach CVAG again to try to resolve these issues; however, if no resolution is achieved, he will bring this matter back to the City Council in May to take further action.
- "Public Works Director Bruce Harry clarified that Measure A funds are used to build regional arterial systems, such as interchanges, bridges and adding lanes to arterials to move traffic. With the last election, there was an option to maintain the existing infrastructure that was built with Measure A funds since 1988; however, the public works directors in the Coachella Valley identified a list of over 3 billion dollars in unbuilt projects in this area and Measure A dollars should continue to be focused on those projects versus utilizing these dollars to fund the CV Link. Mr. Harry noted that the combination of gas tax and Measure A funds is what is used to fund the cost of building and maintaining the roads in Rancho Mirage. He expressed concern that use of Measure A funds for the CV Link would have a drastic negative impact on the City' s general fund and he is not in favor of using Measure A funds toward the CV Link.
- "Mayor Pro Tem Weill stated that on behalf of the entire City Council, they can " take the heat." He added that their sole responsibility is to protect the residents of the City of Rancho Mirage and not to burden future generations with costs that cannot be measured. He assured residents that the City Council is clear on their mandate and will follow through accordingly.
- "Councilmember Richard Kite noted that he presently serves on the CV Link Subcommittee for the City of Rancho Mirage. Based on his review of the alternatives for the CV Link alignment, he stated that he cannot support either of the two proposed route alignments. He further stated that the proposed routes destroy existing trails, remove parkways and will impact businesses on Highway 111. He suggested that these two routes be relocated to other locations that do not have an impact on residential or business districts. Councilmember Kite acknowledged that there are several cities in the Valley that may benefit from the CV Link project, however Rancho Mirage is not one of them. He stated he cannot support building the CV Link through one of Rancho Mirage' s unique areas and further consideration needs to be given to what is best for the residents of Rancho Mirage, which may be going back to the original objective of providing a bicycle, walking or equestrian trail. Councilmember Kite concluded his remarks by indicating there are two overriding concerns to consider; ( 1) protecting Rancho Mirage property values; and ( 2) protecting the privacy of the residents. He noted there may be a way to provide for the CV Link in Rancho Mirage, but not at the expense of the quality of the life enjoyed by Rancho Mirage residents. Councilmember Kite recommended the City Council reject the proposed route alignments at this time.
- "Councilmember Iris Smotrich commented that during her term as Mayor she listened to many opinions and concerns regarding the CV Link project. Further, she commented that she has attended many of the CVAG and CVWD meetings, where she has heard some very impressive presentations; however, when examined there are many reasons for concern. She noted these concerns include parking, the effect on ambient lighting for the Planetarium, traffic congestion at the corner of Country Club Drive and Highway 111, vehicle safety and monitoring, and increased crime risks. For these reasons and the enormous cost of this project, Councilmember Smotrich indicated the City Council needs to look at this project very carefully for the residents of Rancho Mirage and echoed similar comments that this may not be appropriate for the City of Rancho Mirage.
- "Councilmember Charles Townsend stated that his concerns have been covered very adequately at this meeting. He noted that the City Council and staff have gone to great lengths to assess every aspect of the CV Link project and will do what is necessary to protect the City's residents and property.
- "MOTION CARRIED 5/ 0."