Serene Lakes residents plead to stay out of DSPUD sphere
As the Nevada and Placer county Local Agency Formation commissions unite to decide on a sphere of influence at Donner Summit, Serene Lakes property owners are pleading for the joint commission to keep them out of the sphere.
Voting rights and the area’s water supply are topping the list for homeowners wanting to steer clear of the Donner Summit Public Utility District.
At a recent public hearing at the Sherritt Lane fire station, Serene Lakes landowners, county representatives and representatives of the Sierra Lakes County Water District shared their opinions with the joint commission.
“People in Serene Lakes see being included in the sphere of influence as the first step toward annexation,” said joint commission Chair Don McCormack. “In a way they are right, but if they don’t want to be annexed, they won’t be.”
5-to 20-year plan
In the sphere of influence proposed by the DSPUD and planner Andrew Cassano, Serene Lakes is in the 5- to 20-year potential for annexation.
“We don’t want to be annexed,” said Serene Lakes Property Owners Association President Cliff Busby.
“In the late 80s there was a contentious debate about a ski area trying to gain some of Serene Lakes’ property. We’re nervous that there is something else going on that is going to change Serene Lakes.”
Busby said landowners are content with the contracted services they receive from the district – sewage treatment and fire and rescue services.
“We pay for our contracts and we are satisfied with the service,” Busby said.
“We don’t want anything else from the district.”
Steve Grimm, DSPUD general manager said the district proposed the sphere and the annexation, but isn’t concerned how the vote goes, either to keep Serene Lakes in the proposed annexation area or continue its designation as an area of concern.
“We don’t care either way,” he said. “We have no desire to annex the district.”
SLCWD Director Duane Frink doesn’t think the DSPUD is telling the entire story.
“If the PUD annexes the water district we could be bailing them out in the event of a drought,” he said.
“There were concerns about Lake Angela once, and I’m sure there will be concerns about its levels again.”
Frink said if the lakes in Serene are annexed it will give the PUD a larger water base.
The SLCWD supplies water for Serene Lakes and Royal Gorge.
“I don’t know what the summit will look like in 10 or 15 years,” he said. “It could be a recreational area with lots of potential. We want to keep it that way.”
McCormack said that although the sphere is important for future planning, he didn’t foresee any major development happening in the Serene Lakes area.
Even though, the property owners want to retain their rights, especially for voting privileges.
Busby said the landowners, even if second homeowners, vote to elect the water district’s board.
If Serene Lakes is annexed some of the landowners would lose their right to vote under county legislation, and Busby said they would lose more than half of their votes.
Richard Mead, a second homeowner from Moraga, said losing his and others’ rights to vote would be unfortunate.
“The Local Agency Formation Commissions should be looking at consolidating the functions of Donner Summit PUD into existing Nevada County organizations,” Mead wrote in a letter to S.R. Jones of the Nevada County LAFCo.
“From the standpoint of a second homeowner in Sierra Lakes County Water District, a more professional management of the functions of water, sewer and fire protection, now managed by the Donner Summit Public Utilities District has appeal.
Frankly, the homeowners in Serene Lakes are tired of attempts by DSPUD to take us over.”
Nevada County Supervisor Sam Dardick, who is on the joint commission, said at the meeting a comprehensive study is needed to assess the future of the Donner Summit area north of Interstate 80 and east to Norden.
Others on the commission agreed and tabled any decision to accept or reject the proposed sphere of influence until there is more research done.
When the recommendation to approve the sphere was first put to vote the commission was split down the middle – Nevada County commissioners voting for the adoption and Placer County commissioners voting against.
Because there were two seats vacant on the Placer County commission due to November’s election, the commissioners who were present said they wanted more time and more representation since a portion of Serene Lakes is in Placer County.
Deborah Cubberley, an executive officer with Placer County LAFCo., said she was satisfied with the motion to continue the meeting until Placer County’s vacant seats were filled.
“We were short handed,” she said. “The decision to continue was a good move.”
A new staff report taking in the considerations of Serene Lakes landowners and others from the community will be presented at the next meeting, scheduled tentatively for the end of January.
“All we’re asking is that there is more time put into researching how the sphere will impact Serene Lakes entirely,” Mead said.
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