Sewer plans pack house
By Kelly Feser Eells
It was standing room only at
the Ojai Valley Sanitary District's board of directors meeting
Monday night, a fact that didn't go unnoticed by Director Peter
Kaiser, who said he was pleased to see such a large turnout.
"And as long as this item keeps coming up (on the agenda),"
shouted an unidentified member of the audience, "you'll
keep seeing us."
Indeed, the item - "Arbolada/Foothill Road Potential Sewering
Projects" - drew more than 50 people to the meeting, most
of whom were in a less-than cheerful mood.
Fairview Road resident George Ball was the first to take the
podium. "I just have a simple question," he said; "I
was just wondering how many times you were going to ask us what
our opinion is (of the potential sewering of this area), and
then how many times are you going to come back and ask us what
our opinion is, again? We've said overwhelmingly - that we don't
want it - so why is this still floating around in the atmosphere?"
Chairman William Lotts said, "Did you hear Mr. Correa's
explanation of the votes," referring to District Manager
John Correa's introduction of the item, where he provided both
a breakdown of the votes taken and stated that he "continued
to recommend that the Board not approve" a Foothill Road
property owner's request to install an eight-inch sewer pipe
at his own expense.
Ball said he heard the explanation of the votes, but now how
anyone in the Arbolada or Fairview area "would be affected
if anyone managed to get a sewer line in. For instance, if we're
not on the sewer line, and something happens to the septic system
needing repairs, would we be stopped from getting it repaired
and be forced to go on to a sewer line that someone else put
in over our objections?"
Lotts replied that "the Health Department can make you hook
up to the sewer line, or fix your septic system. We are not the
people that demand that you hook up or don't; we are only a service
Ball said that, while he "understood that, you're the people
who keep asking us what our opinion isas though you have some
say over this."
"There are some people in the Arbolada that want a sewer
line, and we're trying to see what we can do, investigate, to
see if we can get them one. That's all we're doing. And I can't
tell you that we won't ask again," said Lotts, a remark
met by a chorus of groans.
Director Russ Baggerly indicated he might better clarify the
Board's role in the process, saying, "Mr. Ball, I think
you deserve an answer to your question. You know, we went through
quite a bit of time trying to develop a financing system to make
it easier for people to sewer their properties and finance it
at the same time. It turned out to be not a great idea,"
he said, adding, "and that was the first time we asked you,"
pointing to the vote taken last October.
"This time," Baggerly continued, "a number of
people came to the Board and said 'we do want to get sewers,'
and the only legitimate way for us to move forward with that
proposal was to ask whether or not you wanted to tax yourselves
through a benefit assessment district - so we had to ask you
again. And you've spoken very clearly and plainly. That's the
answer to your question."
Asked if the District had, therefore, "quit," Baggerly
said, "yes, but if there's a possibility for us to sewer
some properties without affecting a large amount of people in
a negative economic fashion," then the Board would likely
Foothill Road resident Virginia Newkirk wanted to know "by
whose authority and with whose consent Mr. Correa is continuing
to prepare maps and continues to develop plans for the sewering
of the Arbolada area."
Lotts said that, though he "thought that had been answered,
would you mind, Mr. Correa, stating again" the District's
reasons for pursuing the issue.
"That area (shaded green on a District-generated map), that
stretch of Foothill Road has more than half the properties indicating
they wanted to be sewered and we are investigating ways to provide
Newkirk said that, "in her opinion, it seemed like a very
small handful of people" were interested, and that it seemed
a "very expensive" proposition whether approved or
just considered for approval.
Bob Tallyn, president of the Upper Foothill Property Association,
said that he believed a jointly signed letter - submitted by
the Property Association - "speaks for itself. The majority
of the homeowners in upper Foothill are against sewering, and
against Mr. Rennacker's (Lee Rennacker, the property owner proposing
to install a lateral sewer line at his own expense) proposal.
We've never been contacted by Mr. Rennacker as a board or as
the private owners that he's going to have to cross the property
of" to laterally Tallyn added, "we could stop talking
right now, though, if the Board is going to make a final decision
tonight" to deny approval of Rennacker's request, as recommended
in the District's agenda.
Correa said that "they can make a final decision this evening,
yes but after the public comment" period.
Foothill Road resident Gary Feldstein, also an Upper Foothill
Property Association board member, said he had extensive experience,
"over 20 years' worth, in construction, and I was asked
by the Board to take a look into the actual cost estimates and
time to do the project" proposed by Rennacker.
Feldstein distributed a one-page cost analysis to the Board,
noting that, "our estimate is in the range of $500,000 or
more - a significant portion of which is the materials. I think
the estimate put in by Mr. Rennacker's proposal was somewhere
between $80,000 and $100,000."
Feldstein also indicated that the Property Association board's
estimate was conservative, pointing out that it was based on
a three-man crew and didn't take bond issues into account or
the fact that it was difficult "tunneling through that road.
We've been told by people with expensive experience (trenching
the road) that you'd be very lucky to do 50 feet a day and it
would be a minimum of five-to-six months" to complete.
"Also, we're very concerned about access for fire trucks;
that's a significant problem," Feldstein added; "also
not included in any of these figures are engineering fees."
Arbolada resident voiced her opposition to the proposal by saying,
"Right is right, and wrong is wrong." She added, "I've
been losing a lot of sleep over this, and I'd like to say that
I've got a pepper tree that's thriving because of the cesspool,"
prompting the first big laugh of the evening.
Lee Rennacker prompted the next round of laughter when he said,
"I guess I can safely assume not everyone's here to support
me." He went on to say that he was trying to "do what's
best for everyone," and noted that, "while I'm not
refuting Mr. Feldstein's estimates, mine were done by me, a civil
Rennacker offered a brief analysis of the "actual costs
none of which," he reminded the audience, would be absorbed
by anyone but himself. "Honestly, I don't understand what
the majority of the objections are. And since it says right here
in the agenda that the District recommended denying Lee Rennacker's
request, what, essentially is the point of (this) meeting?
"Einstein said that, 'with great difficulty comes great
opportunity,' and I guess I've got a lot of opportunity here,"
Foothill Road resident Barbara Buchanan said that, "in discussing
this issue with John (Correa), I learned that there's something
called a 'bedroom equivalent,' which I think everyone here would
be interested in knowing about."
The "bedroom equivalent has more to do with head counts
than bedroom," said Buchanan. That is, "if a sewer
line ran in front of your house, you'd probably be denied a permit
to add on anything, even a cabana, or do any remodeling - even
if the project included no new plumbing" without connecting
to the sewer line
Correa and Director Stan Greene confirmed that the 'bedroom equivalent'
was restrictive. "State law says that if you have a building
need," said Greene, "and what you build will in any
way affect the ability of your septic system to perform, well
what I don't understand is, if you sold a house (using the septic
system), 18 people could move in" without being bound by
the 'bedroom equivalent' rule. "The government has permit
leverage," he said.
Tim Setnicka identified himself as a Foothill Lane property owner
"with no plans to build on my vacant lot. I'm just here
to support the proposal; I think it's extraordinary that a homeowner
would be willing to do this at his own expense - and I love public/private
partnership projects like this.
"From a long term point view, there's not a better investment
(than a sewer system). I see this as an earth tax," Setnicka
said. "As good stewards of the environment, well, let's
stop putting feces in the earth."
Smiling, he added, "and we'll use the Clean Water Act to
fight those who oppose" this project.
Baggerly noted that, "while I strongly disagree with Mr.
Rennacker's request for a mile-long line, I don't disagree with
someone's right to sewer their property at their own expense."
Collectively lauding "democracy
in action," the Board voted unanimously to deny Rennacker's
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