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Virginia Graziani

Redwood Times

The Garberville Sanitary District board of directors approved a draft proposal to annex six areas currently outside its boundaries into the district at its regular monthly board meeting last Tuesday, Jan. 24.

This step allows GSD to begin work on environmental documents required for compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act.

When GSD purchased the Garberville Water Company in 2004 it “inherited” a number of water service connections outside district boundaries.

Approving the proposal is the first step in the process to bring nearly all areas served by GSD within its legal boundaries as required by the Humboldt Local Agency Formation Commission under California law.

Jennie Short, the district’s capital improvements project manager, displayed a series of maps showing the areas proposed for annexation.

Area 1, the area northwest of current boundaries including Bear Canyon Drive, Renner Fuel, and Caltrans; Area 2, the Hillcrest Drive area southeast of current boundaries on the east side of Highway 101; and Area 3, Leino Lane, were all accepted with minor comments.

Controversy arose during the discussion of Area 4, which includes the 430-acre Southern Humboldt Community Park and the 80-acre River Ranch LLC property.

Currently there is one connection on the River Ranch property serving the “yellow house” on Sprowel Creek Road and one at the community park that has historically served the two existing residences.

But both the SHCP board and Sanford Goldeen, owner of River Ranch LLC, have expressed their intention to develop their land beyond current use. Goldeen would like to build three new residences on his land and has made an agreement with GSD to receive three residential connections in exchange for an easement that will allow the district to build its new drinking water treatment plant on his property.

SHCP is currently applying to the county for a General Plan Amendment that would give them the flexibility to pursue a variety of projects, including a sports complex, public event site, and multi-family housing on property now zoned for agricultural use.

Some members of the public have argued that GSD can continue to serve existing connections by annexing only a small portion of these properties, the areas where the residences and the lines bringing water to the houses are located. One speaker described these as tulip-shaped, with the water lines forming a stem and the residences forming a flower.

These community members maintain that annexing the entire properties would induce development with serious impacts on the environment, especially the river, and the surrounding community.

The two properties in Area 4 are the only ones in the proposed annexation that have any serious potential for growth, Short pointed out. Other areas under consideration are all built out.

Therefore, GSD’s final proposal will include conditions on annexation of the SHCP and Goldeen parcels, allowing only a limited amount of water per connection, she continued.

The limits would be established after study of “reasonable” data on typical residential use, possibly a thousand cubic feet per household per month. (A cubic foot, the typical unit of measurement for water use, equals about seven and a half gallons.)

Kathryn Lobato, executive director of SHCP, responded that the basic concept of conditioning usage is good but that the park will need drinking water for more than the residences. One of the park board’s chief concerns is providing water for people using the park, particularly Tooby Memorial Park, and they would like enough additional water to serve several drinking fountains and a bathroom.

Calculations on drinking fountain and bathroom water use are readily available and can be added to residential use when the proposal is finalized, Short said.

In the meantime, SHCP is working on an Environmental Impact Report as part of its GPA application. When the EIR is finalized, the park board can come back to the district with request for further use, and the issue will be “hashed out,” Schwartz said.

This means that conditions may be changed or removed once the environmental impact of the park’s development has been studied.

Another member of the public asked what recourse GSD has if the park uses more water than allowed by the condition. Short admitted it was possible, but impractical, to have district staff check the water meter daily and shut off service if the limit was exceeded.

More likely GSD would impose an additional fee as a penalty if the park used more than the allowed amount. It would have to be severe enough “to make them not want to do it,” Schwartz added.

The members of the public concerned about development impacts remained dissatisfied because of the possibility of undoing the conditions following approval of the GSD board’s Mitigated Negative Declaration and park’s EIR, particularly after Schwartz explained that the California Environmental Quality Act “doesn’t control development; it provides information on impacts.”

Agricultural advocate John LaBoyteaux observed that in their Sphere of Influence Report, approved at the board meeting of Nov. 28, GSD removed some unbuildable properties from their current SOI and added in some buildable ones, specifically the River Ranch and SHCP properties, in the hope of qualifying for a CEQA mitigated negative declaration rather than a full EIR.

But this results in a higher growth potential so there will be environmental impacts to consider, LaBoyteaux said; therefore, a full review should be done.

He also noted that the central 100 acres of the park property is prime agricultural land under at least one of the five criteria established by the California Resource Code, which includes a history of agricultural productivity as well as soil type.

Because the agricultural area has its own water source, GSD can exclude it from the district and still draw an unbroken boundary by including the non-ag land that surrounds the fields, leaving SHCP with over 300 acres within the district.

Schwartz pointed out that LaBoyteaux’s letter referred to the SOI but the matter on the table was annexation. All of the land in the park was included in both the SOI and the annexation, LaBoyteaux replied, so the same comments apply to both.

”You may be right,” Schwartz said, “but the consensus is that the community wants the park. The community may be wrong, communities can make bad decisions,” but Schwartz felt it was important to follow the community’s wishes.

Area 5 is the Kimtu subdivision, which is not being proposed for annexation although GSD will provide drinking water once the new pipeline is completed. (See related story in this issue.) GSD will make a separate agreement with residents of the subdivision.

Other speakers were also concerned about the annexation of the Connick Creek subdivision (Area 6), which is well outside current boundaries and which will continue to stand alone as an “island.”

Again, some other members of the public objected, stating that anyone who lives along a water line has the right of access to that line, so including Connick Creek will encourage development on those parcels currently designated as resource lands.

Another speaker called GSD “colonialists,” and accused the directors of creating an annexation plan that could ultimately bring 200 new customers into the district, when the projected growth rate for the area is 0.5 percent, or two connections over the next five years.

Finally, one woman argued that because the county’s General Plan Update, still in process, will direct the county to concentrate growth in areas served by public water and sewer, GSD’s large proposed annexation will make it easy to subdivide in the mostly low-density rural areas around the main part of town.

”You have a good point,” Schwartz conceded, “but the community gets what it wants. We’re not commissars.”

Several of the speakers replied that there was no true consensus in the community, reminding the board that 600 people signed a petition to limit growth at SHCP. Supporters of SHCP said this was an incorrect statement, because the petition asked only that the county not allow large public events with amplified music.

[Note: In addition to opposing “amplified concerts/festivals/fundraisers….,” approximately two-thirds of the petitions state: “I oppose the proposed GPA and land use changes. I support the preservation of valuable farmland. I reject the use of the SHCP for housing development, commercial recreation, motorized recreation, RV and camping facilities.”

It should also be noted that at the Nov. 28, 2011, meeting to discuss the SOI, more than two-dozen community members spoke in support of including the entire SHCP in GSD’s sphere of influence.]

When discussion returned to the board, Schwartz asked staff to explain the consequences of not approving the proposed annexation.

General manager Mark Bryant replied, “Our investment in the drinking water treatment project would remain just that – an investment.”

Board member Peter Connolly recused himself from the board’s discussion and vote because he owns property in the Connick Creek subdivision. Former board member Dwight Knapp resigned effective Dec. 31, 2011. The three remaining directors, Schwartz, Dennis Bourassa, and Bill Stewart quickly approved the annexation application.

Following a brief discussion, the board voted to have SHN Engineering of Eureka prepare the environmental documents needed for annexation. SHN recommended a mitigated negative declaration, whereas LAFCo, the other bidder, suggested a more piecemeal approach that would cost significantly more.

Last Tuesday’s meeting was only the first public review of the proposed annexation, Short explained to the Redwood Times.

The GSD board must hold a public hearing when the CEQA documents are ready for review. Then the board must pass a Resolution of Application and submit the entire package to the Humboldt Local Agency Formation Commission.

LAFCo in turn will hold a public hearing before approving the annexation.

Other matters before the board included the general manager’s report. Bryant said that after working closely with consultants, staff has reduced the projected expense of building the new drinking water treatment plant to below the proposed budget amount. Most of the savings would come from redesigning the building that will house the plant.

Bryant also reported that district finances were on track for November and December, with a small deficit in November due to reimbursable expenses for the wastewater treatment and water treatment plants. December’s financial statement showed the district safely in the black.

One applicant, Rio Anderson, has come forward to apply for the board seat vacated by Knapp, Schwartz announced. Under county election laws, anyone who is a registered voter within GSD’s current boundaries has through this Thursday, Feb. 1, to apply for the vacancy. For information on how to apply, call GSD at 923-9566 during office hours, Monday through Thursday.

The board appointed an ad-hoc subcommittee, made up of Bourassa and Stewart, to review the applications on Feb. 2, and to recommend a new member on the board’s behalf no later than Feb. 15.

GSD’s recommendation will be sent to the county board of supervisors, who will make the appointment.

The new board member will be seated at GSD’s next regular meeting, Feb. 28. At that time, the board will elect officers for the year.

GSD holds its regular monthly board meetings at its office in Garberville, beginning at 5 p.m. All members of the public are welcome to attend.

Photo caption:

This map shows areas Garberville Sanitary District has proposed for annexation to its district boundaries. The green cross-hatched area shows the district’s current boundaries. Areas served with water to be included in the new boundaries have blue crosshatching on a yellow background. Areas to be annexed but which are not currently served with water are shown in yellow with no cross-hatching.

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