The Garberville Sanitary District board of directors has approved a proposal to annex the entire Southern Humboldt Community Park with several conditions, including a "service prohibition zone overlay" that would restrict water service only to existing buildings.
The board voted 4-1 to approve this alternative after more than two hours of comment and discussion at its meeting last Monday, July 2. The monthly meeting was moved from the usual fourth Tuesday to Monday, July 2, because of inability to get a quorum of directors on June 28.
GSD's capital projects coordinator, Jennie Short, presented the board with three alternatives regarding annexation of SHCP, the most controversial part of the district's efforts to bring all properties currently served with water by GSD within its boundaries.
Short recommended that the board adopt Alternative 1, which would entirely exclude SHCP from this annexation process. The park's current water connection is on a different parcel with a different owner; therefore SHCP is not legally an existing customer, Short said.
SHCP, according to its own CEQA Checklist-Initial Study, which is part of its application to Humboldt County for a General Plan Amendment, "has its own abundant water sources including springs and a well on the property..." and a 55,000-gallon onsite storage tank. Therefore, current activities can continue at the park without GSD water. When the GPA is approved, SHCP can apply to GSD for annexation.
The second alternative would annex only that portion of SHCP that historically used water provided by the privately owned Garberville Water Company, which GSD purchased in 2004. Various other conditions would also apply.
The third alternative, which the board ultimately adopted, would annex the entire park but would place a service prohibition zone overlay over everything except the two residences, barns, and outbuildings in a cluster of a few acres, where the water service originally existed.
Short recommended the first alternative - excluding the entire park - because the legal issues raised by the other two alternatives would increase costs and the time needed for completion of the annexation process.
For their part members of the SHCP board and executive director Kathryn Lobato were dissatisfied with all the alternatives.
In a letter to GSD dated June 12, Lobato asked for "a modified version of Alternative 2," which essentially would annex the entire park without a service prohibition zone overlay.
Instead of the overlay, SHCP would agree to modify its infrastructure so that water service would be physically limited to the two houses on its property and would install a new meter with a dedicated line to the two houses.
When the county approves the GPA, allowing more intense uses of the property, the park will ask GSD to "revisit" this agreement.
The issue revolves around the question of whether or not SHCP has had "historic service" from GSD.
Water is currently served to many properties outside GSD's boundaries, and the purpose of the district's current annexation effort is to comply with California law requiring a public district to serve only those properties inside its legal boundaries.
SHCP claims it has "historic service." In fact, it pays a monthly base rate for drinking water to GSD even though it does not actually use any water because of many leaks along the old pipelines on its property.
But this assumption is questionable because the meter is on a separate parcel with a separate owner.
Most of what today belongs to two owners, SHCP and River Ranch Homes, LLC, was once all one parcel with one owner. One meter served three residences: the yellow house on the north side of the property just off Sprowel Creek Road and the two houses on the flat. Lines from the two ranch houses also supplied water to the barn and other outbuildings.
Several years ago, SHCP applied for a lot line adjustment that moved various parcel lines, separating what is now the park property from 80 acres to the north.
When the county approved the lot line adjustment, SHCP sold the 80-acre parcel to River Ranch Homes, LLC. The meter ended up on the River Ranch side of the new lot line.
GSD's ordinance 4.9.a. states: "Each building under separate ownership must be provided with a separate service connection and meter...." 4.9.d. states: "When property provided with a service connection is divided, each parcel will have a separate service connection."
Park advocates interpreted this to mean that GSD is required to install a second connection so both parcels can be served, but Short pointed out that this ordinance only means the district does not allow service from a meter on one parcel to an adjoining parcel under a different ownership.
SHCP must apply for a separate new connection, and in order to get it, according to California law, SHCP's parcel must be annexed.
An additional issue is whether and to what extent SHCP should pay for the increased costs to GSD of annexing the park.
If SHCP does not have "historic service," then annexation of the park, particularly if the annexation includes all 430 acres without a prohibition overlay, will require GSD to do a much more extensive, and therefore more costly, environmental analysis than it would do for other alternatives.
At last Monday's meeting, members of the SHCP board said they would consider cost sharing if it was "fair and reasonable." Lobato's June 12 letter stated that the park would consider a cost-sharing agreement upon advice from its attorneys.
Several park supporters asked GSD to act in the interest of the "community" - that is, those who support the park - regardless of the cost and potential legal issues.
GSD operations manager Ron Copenhafer, a Garberville resident, responded, "I support the park completely but I don't see anybody from the park saying that GSD has only 400 customers, and maybe we should consider how much burden we're putting onto them."
Ultimately the board voted to support Alternative 3, with board chair Herb Schwartz dissenting. Schwartz agreed with Short that annexation of SHCP is costly, legally risky, and unnecessary at this time.
Because they were still uncertain about many of the issues raised, the board directed staff to return with clarification of conditions before any further action is taken on the annexation application to the Humboldt Local Agency Formation Commission.
Short asked for an additional 60 to 90 days to complete this because her first priority is the drinking water system project, which she hopes will be ready for bids by Aug. 1.
In the past month, the drinking water project, which includes building an entirely new treatment plant and a new one-million-gallon storage tank, has moved ahead dramatically, with many agreements signed and go-aheads given from a constellation of agencies including the county planning and public works department, the California National Resources Agency, the California Department of Fish and Game, and the state Water Resources Control Board and Water Quality Control Board.
If the final engineer's estimate is ready to submit to the California Department of Public Health, which is providing much of the funding for the project, it can go to bid - after several years of preparation - on Aug. 1.
The Kimtu pipeline project is nearly complete. "The only work remaining is the final installation of the meters and the connection of customers to the new system," Short said in her report. She projected that this would be done within the next few weeks.
CDPH funded this project, intended to provide safe and reliable drinking water and water for fire protection to the 20 homes in the Kimtu subdivision, out of its own budget.
CDPH will retain ownership of the pipeline until it is satisfied that the work is complete and all conditions have been met. Then it will turn ownership of the pipeline over to GSD.
CDPH's agreement with GSD prohibits any additional connections to the Kimtu line unless the district can demonstrate that it can still provide 750 gallons per minute, the amount CDPH considers to be adequate fire flow, to Kimtu.
This means that "every future connection to the Kimtu line will need CDPH approval once GSD can document that the fire flow will not be compromised after the connection," Short reported.
Additionally, LAFCo approval is required for all new connections to the Kimtu line.
Early in the meeting, chair Schwartz announced that two seats on the board of directors would be vacant soon.
Peter Connolly submitted a letter of resignation effective Aug. 1, citing health reasons. Schwartz first announced his intention to resign effective Sept. 1 several months ago, and he reaffirmed that Monday night.
The board may appoint new members to serve until the next regular election, at which time two new directors will be chosen by the voters. If no more than two qualified people sign up as candidates, those two will fill the seats.
Anyone interested in serving on the GSD board should call the office, 923-9566, for more information about qualifications and how to apply.
GSD's next board of directors meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 24, at 5 p.m. at the district offices in Garberville. All board meetings are open to the public and time is made available for comment on both agendized and non-agendized matters.