The Cambrian

Case seeking to force CCSD to provide services fails in court

Judge Ginger Garrett ruled June 13 against six plaintiffs who had sought to force the Cambria Community Services District to provide water and sewage-treatment service to vacant properties that aren’t on the district’s official “water wait list.”

In September 2015, Kenneth and Colleen Noonan, Patricia Leko, Charles Stanton, Wilma Sutcliffe and Karla Selwyn filed their petition in San Luis Obispo Superior Court. Among other allegations, the petition asserted that the district and the county had operated “in concert to implement a scheme to limit development,” which the petitioners say prevents future building on undeveloped Cambria properties not on the wait list.

Garrett issued a tentative ruling June 9, and made it final June 13, dismissing the case. That ruling said the plaintiffs “failed to allege facts sufficient to state a cause of action against CCSD.”

It’s not known whether the plaintiffs will appeal Garrett’s ruling. The total costs incurred by the CCSD to date in defending the case are $21,000, district general manager Jerry Gruber said Wednesday.

The lawsuit was similar to others filed against the district in the past, most of them by Gregg Berge, a Murrieta real estate agent who filed five cases against the CSD in eight years, and ultimately was barred by a judge from filing any more similar lawsuits.

The district has capped Cambria’s residential water connections at 4,650 units, based on availability of water and other limited resources. The CSD is operating under an emergency water-shortage declaration, a situation made worse, the officials say, by the recent drought.

Acquiescing to Mr. Berge’s demands would stretch an already thin supply of water too far.

Greg Sanders, CCSD director

According to CCSD Director Greg Sanders, who is an attorney but who was not representing the district in this case, said Tuesday, June 21, that “the Noonan case is one in a long-running attempt by Gregg Berge to challenge the CCSD’s moratorium and other policies (water wait list, etc.) His legal premise is that by continuing the moratorium, the CCSD is ‘taking’ his property by refusing to issue an intent to serve letter.”

Sanders said, the judge’s decision on the case “is very important for the residents of Cambria for several reasons. First, we have a finite water supply that is stretched very thin. As the drought demonstrates, we operate on a very thin margin of available water. Acquiescing to Mr. Berge’s demands would stretch an already thin supply of water too far.

“Second,” Sanders continued, “the CCSD’s policy for over a decade has been to cap growth at 4,650 residential units. That number takes into account not only the thin water supply, but other factors such as traffic circulation constraints, etc.

Sanders said, “If Mr. Berge’s vacant lots are not on the water wait list, he will not be entitled to develop them. That is why we have a Buildout Reduction Program (under revision).

“The long and short of it,” Sanders concluded, “is we don’t have the infrastructure to handle more than 4,650 units.”