CCSD can send water letters

One resident says she has gathered more than 600 signatures opposing the move

ktanner@thetribunenews.comAugust 29, 2013 

The first few landowners on a Cambria wait list for water service may, after more than a decade, have a chance sometime soon to decide whether they’re ready to build.

Cambria Community Services District directors unanimously approved on Aug. 22 an ordinance and other procedures that would allow them to release an as-yet undetermined number of “intent-to-serve” letters, documents that can be the initial key to unlocking the county’s minor use permit process for Cambria properties.

However, before that can happen, the county and the state Coastal Commission must review and approve the district’s plan, which includes a strong “retrofit-to-build” component in which the landowner must prove that plumbing retrofits provided to other Cambria structures would conserve at least twice the water to be used by the newly built home.

The district board didn’t release any intent-to-serves Aug. 22, indicating that more administrative work needs to be done first.

Directors also unanimously approved higher “capacity fees,” which until then had been called connection fees, for water and sewer-service accounts for new projects that use the services.

A consultant found that the previous rates did not “fully recover costs for water and sewer infrastructure that benefit new development.”

Water-connection rates will be $12,688 per equivalent dwelling unit (EDU), replacing the previous fee of $3,255.

The sewer capacity fee  in Assessment District 2 will be $7,161 per EDU, giving credit for some earlier buy-ins to the sewer system. Most other properties will be assessed at $9,330 per EDU. The previous fee was $3,255 per EDU. Staff is refining a map that will identify clearly the properties that are in or out of Assessment District 2.

For details on the two board actions, go to www.cambriacsd.org.

The town had been under a moratorium for new water connections since November 2001. A previous board had declared a water-shortage state of emergency. Current directors lifted the moratorium in March but left the “Water Code 350” emergency in place.

Director Muril Clift explained the reasoning recently, saying that with the emergency declaration still in place, the moratorium could be reinstated without the district facing lawsuits from impatient landowners or others. At the end of the meeting, he said that, because so many people don’t understand the nuances, the board might consider just doing away with the declaration.

That discussion was for another day, however.

The meeting

The board’s decisions, especially on issuing intent-to-serve letters, shouldn’t have been a surprise, as the five board members each have been fairly forthright at previous meetings about their support for the measures. However, the five-hour-plus session had moments of tension and even anger as nine of 10 speakers sought to change the directors’ minds.

“Why are you not looking at a rate increase (instead of adding new homes)?” Tina Dickason asked. “This is all about paper water, and it’s wrong.”

The drought was on the minds of many, including the directors. “We have exceeded our safe yield in both creeks, and you want to issue more intent-to-serves,” Richard Hawley said. “It’s reckless.”

Alternately, Jerry McKinnon said, “I give you my full support. I don’t question your abilities. I think you’re thorough in your analysis … and will make the decision based on your astuteness. Just hang in there!”

As directors, one by one, stated their rationales and the outcome became obvious, nearly a dozen people stood and walked out of the meeting.

Board Chairman Mike Thompson said, “We’ve been talking about this for at least six months. … I will vote for this now, and next month, and the month after that until we provide some kind of justice to those people who are not being served.”

Thompson noted that it will be a while before any intent-to-serve letters are issued. “I think if any connections are turned on in the next three years, those folks will be very lucky.”
Director Clift said, “What we can’t seem to get across to those 10 people is we’re not going to add a house unless you can offset the amount of water” that would be used to serve that home.

Dickason said Tuesday that Clift was wrong if he thought only 10 people are against the board releasing intent-to-serve letters. Dickason said she collected nearly 100 signatures outside the post office on a petition opposing the letters in six hours on Monday. She added that she had about 600 overall so far, and “we’re going to keep on going.”

At the request of Director Amanda Rice, the board will revisit the ordinance, perhaps as early as the Sept. 26 meeting, to “clean up some inconsistencies,” such as issuing retrofit “points” for installing low-flow showerheads.

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