GSD strikes community park from annexation

Dave Brooksher

Redwood Times

At last week's meeting of the Garberville Sanitation District the board of directors voted unanimously to pass Resolution 13-08, approving the annexation of housing developments in Kimtu, Connick Creek and other areas around Garberville and Alderpoint Road. Many of them had already been receiving water service despite lying outside the district and this annexation is, in part, intended to remedy that problem.

Notably absent from the areas annexed is the Southern Humboldt Community Park, which was removed by the GSD on the advice of their legal counsel after receiving a letter from Ed Voice and Lynn Saxton, an attorney with Saxton & Associates law firm. Voice's letter has been called "threatening," and a heated argument over that characterization developed during public comment. Voice maintained that the letter contains no explicit threat of legal action, despite having been written by an attorney on her firm's official letterhead.

Because the Southern Humboldt Community Park is in the process of its own environmental impact report, including the park in last week's annexation might have required the GSD to conduct an EIR of its own. Even after revising the annexation to exclude the park, Voice and his lawyer are arguing that an EIR is still required.

"We believe that there is substantial evidence before GSD that the project, as revised, may have a significant effect on the environment which cannot be, or which is not being, mitigated or avoided. Thus, GSD should prepare a draft EIR pursuant to 14 CCR - 15703.5," writes Lynne Saxton, Voice's attorney.

Roughly half a dozen members of the public spoke at last week's meeting, mostly in favor of finding a way to provide water service at the park. Several individuals were there on behalf of the Southern Humboldt Community Park's board of directors, including Peter Ryce.

"Mr. Voice has recently written to the GSD challenging the negative declaration and asking for an EIR. I believe that for this reason you have removed the park from this annexation," Ryce said. "I am told that by removing the park Mr. Voice will call off his lawyers, but that's probably just supposition."

During a verbal exchange between Voice and GSD board chairperson Dennis Bourassa, Voice declined to state whether or not he would be pursuing legal recourse in the future. That perceived threat was at the heart of the GSD's decision to move forward on the annexation project without the Southern Humboldt Community Park.

"We went on the advice of our attorney, who felt there was a good chance we were going to be sued," Bourassa admitted later, adding that the park's removal may also trigger further legal action from the SHCP.

The Southern Humboldt Community Park does currently have a water connection, and has paid the bill on that connection as recently as last month despite not receiving water service for several years. The GSD board of directors authorized district staff to offer the park board a refund in the amount of $2,182.95 for payments made to the GSD from October 2009 to August of this year. Since that time, service to the park has been cut off due to a leak in an old water line that crossed Highway 101 on its way to the park grounds.

The SHCP is not now, and was not then, within the boundaries of the GSD's place of use so the legality of the park's water connection is unclear. The SHCP's board of directors indicated that their attorneys will be reviewing the process involved to ensure that GSD cannot terminate their connection without following the proper protocols.