At the August 6, 2019 City Council Meeting, council approved about $86,000 in funding requested by the LMD Citizens Advisory Panel to create landscape conceptual plans for areas of the LMDS along Espola Road and Twin Peaks Road. The plan will be done by the city’s landscape architect take about six to nine months to complete. This plan is in preparation for a future vote of whether to approve new assessments for the two LMD districts. It will detail proposed improvements and outline expected cost to help voters decide.
What is an LMD?
Landscape Maintenance Districts (LMDs) were created many years ago by developers as a way for property owners to pay for enhanced landscaping and improvements beyond those generally provided by the city. Each district is responsible for maintaining all irrigation and sprinkler systems, turf, trees, shrubs, and bushes in medians and public rights-of way. Monies collected from LMD assessments are set aside for the exclusive benefit of each district and can only be used for maintenance and improvement of that specific district. Many homeowners in north Poway are assessed on their property taxes under LMD 86-1. (To determine if your property is part of an LMD, check your property tax statement.)
What’s the problem?
No adjustments to these LMD assessments have been made since 1994. Since then, the cost of water, landscaping, tree removal, etc. has steadily and significantly risen. The City says the districts are facing critical budget shortfalls to adequately maintain these areas.
What happened since the vote failed?
In May 2018, homeowners in two LMDs (83-1 along Twin Peaks Rd. and 86-1 along Espola Rd.), received ballots to approve re-engineered district maps and increased/ new assessments. The proposals were overwhelmingly defeated in both districts. Then-city manager Tina White appointed an ad hoc LMD Advisory Committee comprised of 13 Poway residents from various areas of the community to review LMD 83-1 and 86-1 and provide recommendations. The committee has met more than a dozen times since October 2018. The committee’s recommendations were presented to City Council in March 2019. No decisions were made or actions taken at the time. NOTE: In the current fiscal year (2018-19), the City allocated $100,000 to the two LMDs for emergency tree removal and $165,530 in supplemental water from the general fund over and above its annual general benefit funding to fill the gap left by the LMDs’ insufficient funding.
What does the advisory committee recommend?
In order to return the LMDs to a state that is viable, manageable, and sustainable in the long term, the committee ultimately recommends the need for a successful re-ballot. However, its most pressing recommendation is for the preparation of a Landscape Master Plan (LMP). This coordinated, overarching strategy would:
designate a plan for managing the existing trees to reduce long-term maintenance;
provide concepts for low-maintenance, drought tolerant ground landscaping, including at the entrances, that can be implemented per an eventual funding plan;
create the basis for developing preliminary construction/implementation cost estimates that would inform future decision-making;
outline an overall strategy for reducing maintenance expenses;
initiate broader community support through public input meetings during preparation of the plan.
How would a Landscape Master Plan be funded?
The City is currently in the budget review process and early indications paint a discouraging picture.However, the committee has cited a number of possible funding options for an LMP (roughly estimated to cost $100,000-150,000), including the “surplus” City- provided LMD funding that the Council rolled over into next fiscal year at the May 7 council meeting, current LMD revenues, and possible loans to the LMDs.
Next steps: JULY 16th meeting
The committee is resolute that without a Landscape Master Plan in place, the City will be unable to move forward to resolve the under-funded and inadequate maintenance of LMD 83-1 and 86-1. The City will hold a public LMD Council Workshop on Tuesday, July 16th, 7:00 pm, at City Council Chambers at 13325 Civic Center Drive in Poway to discuss next steps. GVCA encourages all homeowners in north Poway, regardless of whether you are in a current LMD, to attend the workshop, get more information, and provide input.
Voters rejected the proposed LMD 18-2. The vote was 56% "No" to 44% "Yes", with 57.44 percent of the 664 ballots returned. As a result, the proposed LMD assessments will not be billed to property owners and the existing assessments will continue.
Driving along Espola Road through north Poway is a beautiful sight with an abundance of trees, walking trails, and open space. It sets Poway apart from other North County communities. That beauty is at risk because the funds to maintain and rehabilitate the landscaping are limited; residents already have begun to notice a deterioration. To address this issue, the City of Poway is asking residents in north Poway to approve additional fees charged on your property tax bill via ballot to maintain this area known as a Landscape Maintenance District (LMD).
If you live in the impacted area, you should have already received your ballot to vote on creating this new LMD and the increase in assessments.
THE PROPOSED CHANGES
No adjustments to these LMD assessments have been made since 1998 due to the passage of Prop 218 which restricted the city from increasing assessments without a vote. Since then, the cost of water, landscaping, tree removal, living wages, etc. has steadily risen. The city says there are no longer sufficient funds being collected to adequately maintain this area.
The city proposes replacing the existing LMD 86-1 (encompasses more than one million square feet of landscaping and over 1,600 trees benefiting 954 assessed property parcels) with a new LMD known as 18-2, benefiting 1,137 assessed property parcels and increasing the assessments on most parcels located within the new LMD.
PROPOSED LMD 18-2 MAP
EXISTING AND ADDED PROPERTIES TO THE PROPOSED LMD 18-2
THE METHODOLOGY TO DETERMINE THE NEW MAP
State law requires that when an LMD is modified, the city must review the proximity and benefit that surrounding properties may derive, and determine whether they should be included in the new LMD zone. The makeup of our city has changed over the years as neighborhoods have grown and shifted, and some properties were not included in the original LMD 86-1. Based on the assessment engineer’s report, staff has determined that additional properties should be included on the proposed LMD 18-2 map, and at different assessment levels, based on their direct benefit.
The GVCA addressed City Council at the March 6 meeting raising concerns about the zones and assessments not appearing equitable and rational resulting in a smattering of property owners bearing the full cost of funding maintenance and new landscape improvements that would seem to benefit all of north Poway.
CURRENT AND PROPOSED ASSESSMENTS
HOW MUCH ADDITIONAL REVENUE WILL BE RAISED WITH THE NEW LMD?
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT IF THE NEW LMD 18-2 IS APPROVED
Landscape maintenance services help to maintain an aesthetically pleasing community, and also keep our thoroughfares safe and clean. The city says property owners should expect to see a generally higher level of service which would include more frequent tree trimming, leaf and litter removal, and general maintenance. However, there will probably be no dramatic, immediate impact.
The city has said it would begin to set aside a portion of funds for major landscaping rehabilitation that would be phased in after 4-5 years at which time the city proposes that they would engage a landscape architect to create a concept plan and incorporate the community’s input into the final plan to improve the appearance and health of the district.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE PROPOSED LMD IS NOT APPROVED
If voters do not approve the new LMD, the existing LMD and rates of assessment will remain in place, and no additional property owners will be added to the district. City representatives have stated that they will do their best to continue landscaping and maintenance with the funds available, but warn that existing funding is not adequate to keep up with our current needs, and the situation will likely get worse as costs continue to increase.
REQUIRED VS. NECESSARY
Most landscaping is not absolutely necessary in these areas, but provides an aesthetic benefit to the community. Well maintained landscaping can add to a community’s appeal and have a positive influence on home values. Services such as tree trimming and removal, however, are required for public safety.
Only the parcels located within the LMD which are proposed to be assessed are eligible to vote. The determination will be made by a majority of the voting parcels. Votes are weighted based on the dollar amount of each parcel’s assessment. The City Clerk will collect the ballots and present the tabulation at the May 1, 2018 City Council meeting. If a majority of the weighted ballots support the new 18-2 LMD new assessments will be imposed for the property tax bills effective fiscal year 2018-2019. If the ballot does not pass, the current LMD and assessement will remain unchanged.
LMDs were created many years ago by developers as a way for property owners to pay for enhanced landscaping and improvements beyond those generally provided by the city. The district is responsible for maintaining all irrigation and sprinkler systems, turf, trees, shrubs, and bushes in medians and public rights-of way. Monies collected from LMD assessments are set aside for the exclusive benefit of each district and can only be used for maintenance and improvement of that specific district.
Driving along Espola Road over the last few years, have you grown dismayed at the deterioration of the landscaping along the road, as well as other key roads (known as Landscape Maintenance Districts) in the community? The City is proposing to increase taxes with the promise of updated landscaping in these areas.
Per our request, the City has provided the following update on its plan for improving services in these areas (we have bolded some text for emphasis):
A Landscape Maintenance District, or LMD, is an area identified to provide benefitting property owners the option to pay for enhanced landscaping and other improvements, and services beyond those generally provided by the City. There are ten LMDs in Poway. The LMDs were formed in the 1980s when many of Poway’s neighborhoods were first being developed. They cover the cost of contract labor for tree trimming, gardening, litter control, weed abatement and other upkeep and general maintenance (above baseline services provided by the City), as well as costs for water and electricity. LMDs are funded through an assessment on annual property tax bills. The assessment rates, which can vary by zones and LMDs, have remained unchanged for decades. Unfortunately, the funds being collected through the assessment are no longer sufficient to adequately maintain some of the City’s LMDs.
The City is addressing two LMDs this year: 83-1 and 86-1.
LMD 83-1 encompasses the Arbolitos, Twin Peak/Kindercare, Kent eld Estates, Diroma Estates, Kent Hill, Country Creek, Rio Court, Park Village, Midland Estates, and Poway 16 neighborhoods/ subdivisions.
LMD 86-1 includes Bridlewood, Old Coach, Piedmont Park, Stone Canyon Ranch, The Grove and Vision, Huntington Gate, Serenata and Green Valley Estates.
The City has taken short-term measures to reduce landscape services and watering schedules to minimize costs in each LMD. Over time, natural deterioration has affected irrigation systems, trees, plants and other landscape features. As the City plans for the long-term, it will invite property owners within each LMD to meetings to discuss how the funding shortfall and maintenance needs can be addressed. The LMD funding shortfalls leave the City and affected property owners with two options. The first option is to further reduce the maintenance services provided so that expenses are in line with revenues. While this is possible, the City is concerned about the poor appearance that will result from further reducing maintenance services. The second option is for property owners to approve a new re-engineered LMD (referred to as 18-1 and 18-2 respectively) with revised assessments, including an annual index (CPI) to ensure that future assessments keep pace with inflationary cost adjustments.
The City held informational meetings with LMD 83-1 owners in November. Staff will invite LMD 86-1 property owners to participate in informational meetings in January. These informational meetings precede a ballot that will be mailed in March 2018 with options for the future upkeep of landscaping along main roads, neighborhood entryways and common areas within each LMD. Ballots will include an option to vote to increase the assessment rate, which will include an annual CPI index, to restore and improve service levels and reinvest in landscaping and maintenance. The outcome will be determined by the majority of the ballots received.
For more information, including an interactive map with proposed assessments for LMD 83-1 and 86-1 (newly reengineered as LMD 18-1 and 18-2 respectively), visit the City’s website at http://poway.org/930/LMD-86-1-2018-Ballot-Measures