Don’t expect Southside Road to open anytime soon.
County supervisors learned in their latest meeting that a fifth landslide had been developing on Southside Road where repeated slides have shut down a portion of the rural passage. They also speculated it’s becoming clearer that nearby Sunnyslope Water District percolation ponds may play a role in the issue and talked about approaching Ridgemark homeowners about opening private roads as a temporary option for residents in the landslide area.
This discussion occurred in Tuesday’s county board meeting where county leaders also mentioned that soil experts would first be arriving in early September, and the county’s head public works official mentioned he anticipated knowing a precise cause of the slides by mid-September.
That will come after the most recent estimate for reopening the road of Sept. 7. The county recently pegged that date, but that had been before a fourth landslide occurred nearly two weeks ago and prior to the discovery of a fifth slide developing at the top of the hillside.
Overall, the continued troubles add to frustration for residents in the area, some of whom showed up at the meeting last Tuesday to express their displeasure about the situation. The county in the same meeting approved $361,000 in additional funds, taking the total for slide repairs over $1 million, to clean up the third landslide.
“This is just to continue the work and to do the cleanup to shore up as much as possible on the third slide and now we have to deal with the fourth slide,” said Resource Management Agency Director John Guertin in the meeting.
When some supervisors questioned allocating anymore money to the project until it’s clear what’s causing the problem, Guertin acknowledged that the $361,000 in funds were largely to pay contractor Don Chapin Co. for work that’s already been completed without prior board approval.
Guertin told board members in the discussion he expects a geotechnical firm to arrive at the site in the beginning of September to test the soil, adding how he expects to have the cause figured out by mid-September.
For supervisors and residents, meanwhile, the clock is ticking because the road might have to be closed through the winter if they don’t fix the problem before the rainy season starts.
“We all have our ideas about what’s causing the slide,” Guertin said. “Whether those turn out to be true or not, I don’t know yet.”
Some supervisors in their discussion expressed frustration that Sunnyslope Water District wasn’t represented in the meeting, which led to the scheduling of a special meeting this coming Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. to talk it over with the water district and other stakeholders.
“Sunnyslope water needs to be here,” Supervisor Jerry Muenzer said. “We need to have them in the room.”
Added Guertin: “Originally we thought we were going to be able to do this project without impacting any of the water district’s current operating facilities.”
He said that’s no longer the case.
Sunnyslope is needed in the discussions because some officials now believe that the district’s nearby percolation pond is a possible cause of the landslide issues. Board members even mentioned wanting to explore a building-hookup moratorium for the district until the problem gets resolved.
“I don’t feel we should issue any building permits that need to hook up to this treatment plant,” Muenzer said.
Others supported the sentiment, but they couldn’t take a vote on it since the item wasn’t on the agenda.
One of those other stakeholders appears to now be Ridgemark homeowners, since board members alluded to approaching Ridgemark about opening up private roads in the gated community and allowing public access for those Southside Road residents who are hamstrung on route options, most needing to use an access point all the way over in Tres Pinos.
Southside Road resident Tony LoBue broached that idea when he spoke during public comment on the subject.
“If we’re stuck, you need to find a way to get that open,” LoBue said. “If it’s Ridgemark’s water causing a problem, they should be able to help us.”
Four other residents showed displeasure on the topic, including the property owner where the slides are occurring.
Lynn Hilton, the property owner, said he bought it in 1999 but was told when he purchased it the land had been designated for a percolation pond. He said Sunnyslope started the condemnation of his property about five years ago to expand its facilities. He said he questioned those plans at the time to no avail.
“They knew that pond was a problem and they started putting water in it again,” he said.
Photo courtesy of Supervisor Mark Medina