Save Carmel Valley . org - Sewer costs, voters list raises hackles in C.V. citihood debate

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Sewer costs, voters list raises hackles in C.V. citihood debate

Carmel Pine Cone -- Oct. 23, 2009


IN RESPONSE to a political ad which implies Carmel
Valley property owners could be forced to pay for an expensive
sewer system if incorporation succeeds, a candidate for
Carmel Valley’s city council criticized his opponents for
telling “one lie after another.”

“It’s a spaghetti toss of fear tactics,” Glenn Robinson

Meanwhile, less than two weeks before voters weight in
on Measure G, the Monterey County District Attorney’s
Office is looking into a complaint that incorporation opponents
may have violated state law by sharing a list of Carmel
Valley’s registered voters.

Real worry or fear tactic?

The new ad by incorporation opponents warns voters that
Carmel Valley property owners could be required to pay up
to $1,000 in monthly fees to fund a sewer system and water
treatment facility. To back up their claim, they point to
Malibu’s long-standing battle with a regional water quality
control board over its septic systems, which the agency
claims are polluting the Southern California town’s coastal
waters. A consultant hired by the town, which incorporated in
1991, claims the new system will cost Malibu property owners
about $1,000 a month and they could face fines of up to
$10,000 a day if they fail to comply.

But Robinson said incorporation will have no bearing on
whether or not Carmel Valley property owners are required to
pay for a sewer system.

“Sewering is a state decision,” he said. “It has nothing to
do with local government. Sewering gets mandated when
groundwater drinking supplies get unsafe levels of nitrate
pollution. So it’s the state and only the state that can force
sewering to happen.”

But incorporation opponent Lawrence Samuels insisted a
city would be more vulnerable to oversight by regulatory

“There’s greater pressure,” explained Samuels, chair of
the Monterey County Libertarian Party. “If you become a
city, you’re on the radar.”

But Robinson said Carmel Valley is already on the radar.
“The Carmel River provides nearly all the drinking water for
the greater Monterey Peninsula and is therefore tested regularly
for nitrate and other pollutants,” he said. “How much
more visible can you get?”

Samuels conceded Malibu likely would have faced scrutiny
over its septic systems even if it had never incorporated,
but he still believes Carmel Valley residents are asking for
trouble by incorporating.

“It’s a high probability that we’re eventually going to be
pressured like Malibu to install a sewer system if we incorporate,”
Samuels added.

Did opponents violate election law?

Monterey County assistant district attorney Stephanie
Hulsey confirmed her agency is looking into a complaint by
town supporters that an opponent illegally distributed confidential
campaign information.

According to proponents, Samuels emailed copies of a
“walking list” to other opponents. The list, which contains
the names, addresses, phone numbers and party affiliations
of about 7,500 Carmel Valley residents, was purchased by
opponents from the Monterey County Elections Department.
Proponents insist Samuels committed a crime by emailing
the data.

“Campaign lists are entrusted to campaigns and not to be
sent out to people at large,” said town supporter Christine
Williams. “At our campaign office, they’re closely guarded.”

In the Oct. 2 email, Samuels tells incorporation opponents,
“I have enclosed the ‘Walking List’ of registered voters
in Carmel Valley. You may want to talk to your neighbors
about why a city would ruin Carmel Valley,” the email said.

Samuels admitted he emailed the list to about 100 people,
but he insisted he was unaware he was doing anything wrong.
He also said he stopped doing it after learning of the complaints
against him.

“I thought it was public information,” Samuels said of the
list. “How do you walk around and knock on doors if you
don’t have that information.”

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Newstory from The Malibu Times – Oct. 14, 2009

City warns residents of $1,000 monthly sewer fees

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 1:10 PM PDT

The local real estate landscape may drastically change if hefty fees are imposed on Malibu small businesses and institutions.

By Olivia Damavandi / Assistant Editor

The city announced this week that hundreds of residential property owners will have to shell out about $1,000 per month to help finance an estimated $52 million centralized wastewater treatment facility if a septic systems ban is approved. The Regional Water Quality Control Board will decide next month whether to ban such systems in the broader Civic Center area.

The price tag for commercial property owners will vary greatly depending on the size and use of their property, but the city anticipates it will be significantly higher than residential costs.

The hefty cost of the septic ban may drastically change Malibu's real estate landscape as it would affect churches and schools that are already in a financial struggle.

“It's devastating,” Peggy Thomas, Our Lady of Malibu parish business manager, said Tuesday of the possible $1,000 monthly payments. “There's no way we'd have the money to pay for that.”

The regional water board's staff recommends a plan to phase out the utilization of septic systems in most of the eastern portion of Malibu, due to its assessment that they are the major cause of pollution in the Malibu watershed. The plan, which the board will vote on at a meeting in downtown Los Angeles on Nov. 5, includes an end to all further permitting of septic systems in commercial sections of the city such as the Civic Center area and the stretch of Pacific Coast Highway from Serra Road to Sweetwater Canyon, as well as the residential areas of Malibu Colony, Malibu Road, Serra Retreat, Sweetwater Mesa and the Malibu Knolls.

Also, all current septic systems in those areas would have to be phased out within five years. The water board could issue fines of up to $10,000 per day or $100 per gallon of wastewater discharged to those who do not comply.

But in the midst of so many financial threats, most property owners are asking the same question: can the Regional Board actually impose such astronomical costs and fines?

City Manager Jim Thorsen did not rule out the possibility that the city could sue the water board. “Certainly that can be done, but we certainly won't make any statement toward that until we find out what happens,” he said Tuesday in a telephone interview.

The $52 million estimate of a centralized wastewater system includes planning, engineering design, construction, construction management, administration and legal fees. It does not, however, include land purchase expenditures, which could drive the costs upward, the city stated in a press release.

Estimated operations and maintenance costs of the wastewater system would total approximately $1.6 million per year including power, chemicals, repair/replacement, insurance and staffing by certified operators. The monthly cost of the project would be approximately $420,000 ($5 million per year) assuming a capital cost of $52 million, annual costs of $1.6 million and a 20-year SRF loan at 2.7 percent.

Local businesses and private institutions are already struggling with upgrading existing septic systems. The possible ban and potential costs make it even harder.

“The city started a new ordinance last year where we had to get a permit to have our septic systems,” Thomas of OLM said. “So we had to have it inspected and pay a lot of money to get it up to speed and in perfect order so that we could have our permits. And then someone else comes along and tells us ‘We're not going to let you use those septic systems anymore. You're paying all this money to keep things going but that's just for today.”

“It seems to me that there are probably a lot of systems that are working just fine and probably some that aren't, and it seems like they [the water board] just did a blanket thing without considering everyone that's involved,” Thomas continued. “The [OLM] school and the church shouldn't even be commercial properties, they're not money making. The only money we have is what people give us in the plate when we pass it out every week.”

Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and Los Angeles County will also incur the monthly fees, as Webster Elementary School and county-owned properties like Fire Station 88 and those that house the Malibu Library and Malibu Courthouse lie within the septic prohibition zone.

“We've talked to the county, not extensively, but they're aware of the situation,” Thorsen said. “They've prepared a letter that went to the regional board. They have a lot of concerns.”

Malibu officials say there are five studies, including one that is partially city-funded, being conducted at this time that will prove the proposed ban will not improve water quality. The city wants the Nov. 5 hearing delayed until those studies can be finished, which will be in about six to nine months.

But the water board last month denied the city's request to postpone the hearing. RWQCB Executive Officer Tracy Egoscue last month recommended the board deny the request because she said the RWQCB already has enough information to proceed with a vote.

If the Regional Board votes to enact the septic prohibition, it must be also be approved by the State Water Resources Control Board, and finalized by the State Office of Administrative Law.

Last Updated: Oct 23, 09

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