Stage set for release of water connections in Cambria

But district’s action won’t allow actual hookups until county signs off on permits

ktanner@thetribunenews.comAugust 15, 2013 

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Odds are, once the Cambria Community Services District’s Aug. 22 meeting is over, legal mechanisms will be in place for releasing up to 20 “interim” intent-to-serve letters per year for two years. But it’s not yet known if district directors also will have released those letters at that meeting, or if they’ll wait for the Sept. 26 meeting or leave it to staff to do it sometime in between.

The district would release the coveted letters to those wanting to build new homes or buildings requiring water service, despite having an official water-supply emergency in place. Someone building a water-using structure on a parcel of land in the district must have one of the letters before they can get a building permit from the county.

For the county to issue such a permit would take a change in its current Growth Management Ordinance limit set for Cambria, currently at 0 percent due to the declared water emergency. And, even if supervisors loosen that cap, any such action would be subject to review by the state Coastal Commission.

At the services district Board of Directors meeting July 25, each director stated his or her reasons for being in favor of releasing the letters. While some directors — and most audience members who spoke — mentioned concerns about the action, the directors unanimously approved the first reading of ordinance. They also approved a resolution that covered administrative steps, mainly implementing a stepped-up program of water conservation and set the August date for taking the final step toward approving the ordinance allowing letter release.

Director Muril Clift said Tuesday, Aug. 13, that he was “not sure whether we’ll actually issue them at that point (Aug. 22) or after the September meeting.” He said there was some question about “if we’ve already set the number and authorized the manager.”

He said while the board may want to issue the letters immediately, “I’m not sure if we have to go through an administrative action to say how many.” His best guess, he said, was the release would happen sometime in September.

On Aug. 22, directors also are to review a consultant’s report and suggestions about how much it should cost for those developers to connect to the water and sewage-collection systems.

Clift estimated Aug. 13 that those combined fees would be “less than $20,000” for a residential project.

While some people have suggested even higher fees, Clift said there has to be a nexus between what’s charged and “the percentage of a new person’s total asset value of the existing system and the percentage of that person’s share of what the upgrades are or will be.”

The new fees likely won’t include any money toward a planned program of buying up lots deemed unbuildable, the district’s so-called Buildout Reduction Plan.

Clift said there may be other fees in the future, however, such as a parcel tax, fee for parks and recreation or a self-taxing district solely for the 665 lot owners on the district’s water wait list.

Follow Kathe Tanner on Twitter at @CambriaReporter.

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