Turning the spigot off for new building connections in Ventura?

By Debra Tash

Because of the continued drought the City of Ventura’s Council considered a moratorium on either the issuance of new building permits or stopping any new water districts.mortconnections.

Staff did a presentation, reporting that as of October the City’s residents had cut back on water usage by 16%.  They stated that in the early 1990’s Ventura imposed a prohibition on new connections because of a drought at that time.

Issuing a moratorium on building permits is a legally more complex task than mandating one for new connections, which only requires a seven day notice and one public hearing to enact. Staff noted that the General Fund would be impacted with a drop in fees if building permits were stopped.

Councilmember Christy Weir suggested bypassing CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act process) to use more recycled water in the City.

“We need to have some dialog.” Councilmember Carl Morehouse said in addressing the bigger players in the City. (Hospitals, colleges, schools.)

Mayor Cheryl Heitmann preferred the concept of in-lieu fees over a moratorium.  The fees would mandate developers to pay money towards expanded infrastructure.

The City Attorney advised that a court of law would weigh whether a moratorium was arbitrary or capricious.

Most of those who spoke during public comments were in favor of a moratorium.  There were two representatives from CAUSE (a low income advocacy group).  They wanted to see affordable housing exempt from any action taken to reduce water connections.  They supported high density apartments, saying these apartments were much more efficient than single family homes with big lawns.

One commenter said they should let people build buildings, just don’t let them turn on the water. Another said that when asked about the quality of her residential water by a friend she answered: “I drink wine but I think it’s okay.”

Kioren Moss, who is on the board of CoLab (a property rights group) said that the City uses 16,000 acre feet of water a year from five basins, neither of which are depleted.  That they were nowhere near the statutory limit where the City needed to reduce usage.  However, Ventura could do better with its recycling program.

weir

Councilmember Christy Weir

Councilmember Weir made certain the public knew the Council wasn’t setting any policy that night.  The City is in the process of forming a permanent Water Commission to set future policy. For now they would rely on the temporary Task Force’s recommendations in January.

Deputy Mayor Erik Nasarenko made a motion to direct the Water Task Force to determine substantial findings for a building permit or water connection moratorium and to distinguish geographical areas and classifications (all types of users) and residential customers.  And to look at Weir’s recommendations to explore what other agencies are doing throughout the state.

Morehouse seconded motion and all council members voted in favor of it.

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Debra Tash is Editor-in-Chief of Citizensjournal.us, past president for Citizens Alliance for Property Rights, business executive and award-winning author, residing in Somis.

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