Friday, March 30, 2007

Rancho Murieta, Build Out & Activism

Very good look at the group trying to save Rancho Murieta from being built out in violation of the original regulations governing its development .

Confessions of a Republican environmental activist
Tree-hugging Republicans? Meet Candy Chand and her group of Rancho Murieta “greens.”
By Candy Chand

“If you’re going to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh. Otherwise, they’ll kill you.”--George Bernard Shaw

For the last six years, Rancho Murieta has been both my home and battleground. Let me explain. With a quick first impression, one might assume this is just another conservative private community with a golf course. But before you go down that path, let me share what’s actually behind those elusive gates.

Murieta is an incredible, 3,500-acre, oak-studded, wildlife-filled environmental paradise. It’s no wonder residents love it here and will do almost anything to preserve this place they call home. So, when developers Gerry Kamilos and Robert Cassano (hired by the landowners--the Pension Trust Fund for the Operating Engineers) approached our community in November of 2000 with plans to “complete” the remaining acreage, we listened carefully.

However, when they pitched a full build-out project that would bring in multiple developers, destroy thousands of oaks, leave little open space, disperse wildlife, create traffic jams, bypass annexation, terrace our hillsides and diminish our lakes, we got just a little bit miffed.

Even the golfers stopped teeing off long enough to shout, “No way in hell.”

Although those objecting were not, for the most part, the kinds of folks developers were accustomed to dealing with, Cassano and Kamilos didn’t understand just what we were made of. Most residents, including me, were moderately conservative. (Yes, I voted for President Bush. Are you going to stop reading now?) Tree-hugging Republicans? Insert music for Sesame Street’s catchy little jingle--“One of these things is not like the other.”

But no matter what our party affiliations, we all shared one common denominator: We loved the natural beauty of Murieta and didn’t want to see it destroyed.

Our neighborhood was filled with committed people who knew they had something valuable to protect. Imagine men dressed in khakis and women tastefully draped in pearls having lunch at the country club, plotting the day they’d gladly lie down in front of bulldozers to save the community they loved. No, the citizens of Murieta were not the usual suspects.

With virtually no political map to follow, we did what any budding, untrained activists on a mission would do: We organized, gave ourselves a nifty name and started a petition. We called our group the RMDCCC (Rancho Murieta Development Concerned Citizens Committee), then drafted a controlled-growth document and began a signature drive.