Developers Confront Camarillo City Council over Water

order arial, store sans-serif;”>By Logan McFadden

check arial,sans-serif;”>The Camarillo City Council held a public hearing on July 22, 2015, to consider adoption of an Urgency Ordinance amending water conservation measures. Due to the current drought, Governor Brown issued Executive Order B-29-15 imposing unprecedented water restrictions on California’s water supply. As a result, the City is tasked with implementing strategies to comply with a requirement to reduce water use by 20% based upon 2013 water deliveries. The urgency order would limit water use by not issuing will-serve letters to new customers until the state water restrictions are lifted.

For new residential and commercial construction, the City first requires a “water availability” study from the developer. Every new development is reviewed at various benchmarks, including plan check, grading permit and building permit. The developer secures financing for the project based, in part, on the water availability letter. The letter usually is granted subject to conditions to qualify for a will-serve letter. For example, a developer is required to build infrastructure such as an overpass to handle the increased traffic.

Given all of the developments at various stages of completion, it is estimated that water demand will increase 10%. If only those projects which have received a will-serve letter are completed and occupied, the increased water demand is estimated at 1.5%. The City is considering the Urgency Ordinance to prevent additional water conservation mandates if the City does not comply with the overall 20% reduction. The City currently enforces a Stage 2 plan. For non-compliance, the City would need to enforce Stage 3 or 4 plans. For example, watering lawns is currently restricted to three days per week. A Stage 3 plan would only permit watering two days per week. A large share of the developments in the pipeline will not come online until 2016 or 2017. The Ordinance under consideration is considered urgent because the potential requests for will-serve letters could reach 600 residential units prior to the Council’s August meeting.

Representatives from thirteen developments in various stages requested an exemption from the proposed ordinance. Each developer had compelling reasons that supported the exemption request. The Ordinance would prohibit issuance of new will-serve letters until water supply impacts are lifted. Those developers currently without a will-serve letter approving access to the City’s water service, would have options. For example, those with a grading permit could continue with no guarantee of receiving approval for a building permit. Other projects are only in the construction plan approval process. None of the options satisfied the developers.

building.associationA representative from the Building Industry Association of Los Angeles and Ventura County said he was “surprised” by the building moratorium. The new ordinance “places a tremendous burden on developers who have worked diligently with the City”.

The Governor’s Executive Order is in effect until February 2016. The Order is silent on development moratoriums. A representative from the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce stated that the proposed new ordinance would impact future business.

A local resident, Matt Lorimer, stated that the state has been in a drought for four years. He questioned the Council’s green light on so many development projects and said it is “irresponsible” to not stop building. He stressed that the City Council is accountable to the residents, not developers who stand to lose millions of dollars. He warned that the Council would have to explain a Stage 3 or 4 water conservation plan imposed in the future as a result of not passing the Urgency Ordinance.

Another local resident who works in the tile insurance industry stated that the Council should provide more time for the public to weigh in on the Urgency Ordinance. “Developers have helped build the City”.

Mayor Bill Little said “we can’t conserve our way out of the drought and the City needs to provide jobs and homes”. He also hopes for relief from the drought given the projected wet winter. The Council members spent considerable time discussing which projects would be granted an exemption. Councilmember Mike Morgan pointed out that the developers who would be denied an exemption had “spent a lot of money” already. Councilmember Jan McDonald supported passing the Urgency Order and bringing it back for re-consideration after the rainy season plays out. She said the “citizens will pay the price” if the Urgency Ordinance fails. Councilmember Charlotte Craven said a “physical education teacher requires students to play by the rules and not change the rules in the middle of the game”. However, the previous water conservation steps laid out by the City are potentially no longer appropriate given the Governor’s Executive Order. Councilmember Kevin Kildee said “we have to play with the cards we ae dealt with”.

Missing was any discussion of liability the City may have if projects that had moved forward in good faith were stopped by the Urgency Ordinance. One of the developers said that passing the Urgency Ordinance would be viewed as “grossly negligent”. There was consensus among the developers that they were not given sufficient time to analyze the Urgency Ordinance and develop a plan to mitigate the City’s concerns.

At this point in the meeting, a Motion was made and seconded to adopt the Urgency Ordinance. The Motion failed.

There was continued discussion of exemptions and one developer stated that the process was a “gross violation of due process and procedure”. Staff member, Mr. Fox, conceded that the City should “not do this on the fly”. Councilmember Jan McDonald suggested that the Urgency Ordinance be returned to the Council’s August 26th meeting for further review. Councilmember Kildee said further discussion could “find another way out”. The 30-day delay was also supported by the fact that no developer would try to walk through a will-serve letter during the next few weeks.

Camarillo Council Meeting Archive

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Logan McFadden is a Citizensjournal.us city reporter and a recently retired banker, residing in Camarillo. He volunteers for the Heritage Action Sentinel team and serves as the AMAC Delegate to the 26th Congressional District.

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One Response to Developers Confront Camarillo City Council over Water

  1. sh July 28, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    I wonder what the citizens of Camarilo will say about a massive Disneyland style park being designed for Camarillo. The designs have been shown to a select few who are excited about potential jobs and revenue. Water? Elected officials believe in the salvation of development for city budgets that are harder and harder to balance, a false promise based on outdated demographics and consumption patterns.

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