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Park work scaled back

RANCHO SANTA FE — On Nov. 19, the Association board of directors voted to improve the village parks, but on a smaller scale than anything proposed previously.
The vote came after much discussion, debate, and a walk through the parks to visualize and understand enhancements. Despite a cost/benefit analysis prepared by the administration staff, the directors dismissed the staff’s recommendations and scaled back improvements dramatically.
At the Nov. 5 Association meeting, directors had asked staff to prepare a cost/benefit analysis of the parks based on previous discussions. At the meeting on Nov. 19, Covenant Administrator Ivan Holler presented the analysis to the board along with staff’s recommendation for village park improvements, which were a combination of design elements from four different park alternatives proposed — priced anywhere from $400,000 to $1.5 million. Staff’s recommendations split the difference and came at a price tag of approximately $700,000.
The board of directors, staff members and others attending the board meeting then walked the village parks to look at and evaluate proposed enhancements. One of the biggest challenges was the five-way intersection in the middle of the village, in front of The Inn. Making this area safer with crosswalks was a major concern.
Once back in the board room, the debate began. Directors challenged staff’s recommendation of costly interlocking bricks in the five-way intersection. “$300,000 is overkill on paving,” Director Jack Queen said. Others agreed.
“We wanted a lovely intersection, but this is too costly,” Director Kim Higgins said. Director Tom Lang made a motion for improvements that were scaled back considerably from staff’s recommendations, but when he realized that even his proposal was too costly in the eyes of his fellow board members, he withdrew his motion.
“Let’s do less,” Gerry Block, head of the Planning Committee, suggested. “Let’s start with plantings and benches.”
Planning Committee member Guy Freeborn and his wife, Jenny, were also in attendance. “I say, when in doubt — don’t,” Freeborn said. “Just replant and add benches. This is a total waste of money and time. It’s too much for the community.”
“We have an opportunity here,” President Bill Beckman said. “What is the benefit? We have a chance to make this more beautiful. And we have a five-way intersection that is too dangerous. Safety is an issue. But what is the affordability in these economic times?”
In the end, board directors approved a motion by Deb Plummer to move forward on a plan that includes park extensions — thus shrinking the five-way intersection; adding plant materials; site furniture (benches, picnic tables, etc.) irrigations, decomposed granite paths and four disabled ramps at crosswalks in the five-way intersection. The price will be approximately $65,000 — less than 10 percent of what staff recommended. Staff will now prepare a final plan based on the directors’ approved motion.
“This will not preclude enhancements in the future,” Beckman said. “It’s been a lively discussion.”