Saturday, January 28, 2006

Lawsuit Against NCSD Thrown Out Of Court

Today's Tribune reports that a recent lawsuit against the NCSD was thrown out of court on 1/26/06, at the initial pleading stages:

A judge ruled Thursday that a group suing the Nipomo Community Services District over an increase in water connection rates filed the lawsuit too late.

Judge Martin Tangeman said in a written ruling that the plaintiffs, Citizens Against Unlawful Fees, missed the 120-day statute of limitations. The lawsuit was filed on Oct. 27, 123 days after the new fees went into effect.

The plaintiff group filed the lawsuit after the district raised water connection fees to $13,000 from about $3,000. The complaint said the fees were illegal and unfair.

The district said the increase was needed to pay for a pipeline to bring much-needed water from Santa Maria to Nipomo.

While members of the district believed they could have won the lawsuit, General Manager Michael LeBrun said, it did not want to have to go into a full-blown trial. Without a lawsuit pending, district staff doesn't have to worry about delaying the pipeline project.

"It's a real relief," LeBrun said. "We want to put this behind us and move forward."

I am troubled by this lawsuit for several reasons. First, just who are these citizens suing on my behalf as a Nipomo resident? I don't recall there being a public meeting to band together a group of citizens to sue our local services district. A previous Tribune article noted about this particular group:

The lawsuit was filed by an anonymous group called Citizens Against Unlawful Fees. .

It's unclear who the plaintiff group is or how many people are in it. The lawsuit states that the plaintiffs own property in the Nipomo district and have been required to pay the new fees.

Why do these citizens of Nipomo refuse to identify themselves? Are they ashamed of their actions in forming a group and suing our local services district? Are there any citizen groups which advocate for unlawful fees by government? I'm curious to know just who these folks are, who likely cost the district rate payers a tidy sum of money in attorneys' fees having to defend a lawsuit, that didn't even survive the initial pleading stages of litigation. Actually I'm a bit perturbed at having to help fund the defense of a case that was apparently so weak that Judge Tangeman threw it out before litigation even commenced. I'll try to follow up and see if I can obtain the defense costs from the district office.

Another troubling aspect of the lawsuit is the public policy implications. The NCSD is Nipomo's only elected legislative body, dealing with local policy issues. The NCSD, our elected representatives decided to pursue supplemental water. This is probably a good idea, though it is questionable that there exists any imminent water crises in Nipomo. So, the NCSD board contracted with Santa Maria to purchase surplus water from them. To deliver that water, a pipeline has to be built. To build a pipeline costs money. Raising fees, was one way the NCSD board decided to pay for this pipeline. It also puts the burden on paying for the surplus water on the newer Nipomo residents who will allegedly further stress the aquifer from which we all drink here in Nipomo. If successful, this suit could have crippled this pipeline project, or certainly slowed its development.

Nipomo is and will continue to change. We need to come to grips with that reality, and plan how best to face our ever changing future. I'm hoping these masked citizens of Nipomo do not plan to appeal their legal endeavors.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Where I've Been (Not Blogging)

I have been absent from regular blogging for serveral weeks. My father, Wendol M. Murray, recently passed away, 1/7/06, and I've been attending to family responsibilites; however, with things begining to return to a more normal pace, I will soon have time to return to regular posting on all my blogs. Hope to see you very soon.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Nipomo Road Impact Fees To Rise

From today's Adobe Press, we read that the County Board of Supervisors have raised Nipomo's road impact fees up to 25 percent:

Without much discussion and virtually no public comment, the Board of Supervisors unanimously increased road impact fees Tuesday.

The 25-percent increase will become effective in mid-February and be imposed on all new development from the southern edge of Arroyo Grande throughout Nipomo.

Road impact fees are calculated based on the estimated number of vehicle trips certain types of development — commercial, residential and other — will likely add to an area during peak traffic hours.

The fees are collected to help offset impacts of new development on a community’s existing circulation system and can’t be used to fix existing circulation deficiencies.

How interesting there was almost no discussion and very little public comment, as noted in the Adobe. Usually in Nipomo, there is quite a hue and cry when local government proposes to and then does raise taxes. And, quite frankly that's exactly what the road impact fees are--just a rose by another name. I suspect one reason there was barely a mention is that these taxes aren't noticeable by current residents per se. They will be costs that are going to be passed on to new home owners once their developments are built and approved. This means higher housing prices in Nipomo. In an already hot housing market, new home prices will continue to rise.

The fee increase is considerable:

The area where the fees are collected is split into two assessment areas — Area 1 and Area 2. Area 1 is mostly south of Willow Road and includes Olde Towne Nipomo, while Area 2 is mostly north of Willow Road and extends to the border of Arroyo Grande.

Fees in Area 1 will increase from $6,835 per trip to $8,557 for residential development, from $1,058 to $1,325 for retail projects and from $3,528 to $4,117 for other developments.

Area 2 fees will rise from $6,702 to $8,391 per trip for residential, from $1,452 to $1,818 for commercial and from $4,839 to $6,057 for other developments.

More troubling, than the fee increase, however, is the suggestion that these impact fees specifically collected for use in Nipomo to mitigate traffic increases, might be spent elsewhere:

However, Supervisor Katcho Achadjian, who represents Nipomo, Oceano and Halcyon, said he doesn’t like the idea of fees collected in Nipomo being spent elsewhere.

“I want to be on the record saying, ‘I don’t want any money from Nipomo going to the realignment of Halcyon Road,’” Achadjian said. “I want us to focus our efforts on working to widen Highway 1 and leave Halcyon the way it is.”

San Luis Obispo County has not been a very good steward in terms of spending Nipomo's tax revenues in Nipomo. This Tribune article from 2004 outlines how Nipomo Park fees have been spent all over the county--but not necessarily in Nipomo:

A decade-long growth spurt has netted Nipomo nearly $5 million in revenue for park and recreation projects, but so far, only $1.5 million has been spent in the community.

Residents worry the remaining $3.5 million will be siphoned off to towns like Cambria and Los Osos, under the county's system of pooling fees for countywide use . . .

Pete Jenny, San Luis Obispo County's parks director, defends the way development fees are divvied up.

"If all we did was spend money where growth was," he said, "we would not be doing anything in Los Osos, though that's probably, on a per-acre basis, the most underparked community we have."
Nipomo is one of the fastest growing communities, if not the fastest growing in the county. If history is any guide, we need to keep a close eye on those road impact fees to insure that the county spends them in Nipomo and not elsewhere, as it appears park fees are or have been.

Monday, November 28, 2005

New Hotel For Blacklake Golf Resort

According to the Tribune, a new hotel is possible at the Blacklake Golf Resort, in Nipomo. This would be a very good thing for the community, particularly in terms of new revenue toward the community's incorporation. The Tribune reports:

A 125-unit hotel is being planned at Blacklake Golf Resort in Nipomo.

Course owner Rob Rossi is in the initial planning stages for the hotel that would feature golf villas, traditional rooms, and banquet and wedding facilities.

Renderings of the hotel show a multi-story building constructed in a Tuscan-village style.

Rossi said he wants to submit a formal application to San Luis Obispo County planners by the end of the year. He hopes, "with a little good fortune," that the project could be approved by 2007 and the hotel could open in 2008 or 2009.

The photo above in this post is an artist's rendition of the possible hotel. The golf course owner points out that the immediate financial benefit from the hotel taxes, i.e., transient occupancy tax, would go to San Luis Obispo County. Once Nipomo incorporates into a city, those tax revenues would be kept locally here in Nipomo. In the interim, these potential tax revenues will help the Nipomo community make up the current revenue deficit required to become a city.

With Cypress Ridge Golf Course just a short distance north on the mesa, and the Woodlands course also coming on line, Blacklake is seeking to stay competitive. Nipomo could well become a golfer's mecca here on the central coast, with these three major golf destinations within just miles of each other:

The hotel is the result of several factors, Rossi said. Mainly, construction of a hotel will ensure the course stays economically viable. Without such lodging, it's more difficult to attract the golf tourist -- a necessity for making the course profitable.

Blacklake originally included condos for tourists when it was built more than 20 years ago. But over the years they were sold off as homes.

About 90,000 rounds of golf per year are played on the 27-hole golf course, Rossi said. The course earns between $3 million and $4 million a year.

Since he bought Blacklake for about $10 million in 2001, Rossi said he has "easily" put in more than $500,000 worth of capital toward improving the course.

The hotel could benefit county coffers too, Rossi said. Many of the courses' tourists -- who come from across the state and as far away as Canada -- now stay in Santa Maria, meaning Santa Barbara County keeps the transient occupancy tax.

"If we had those rooms," Rossi said, "there's no doubt we would accommodate many of them. They're already there playing golf."

Other county businesses could also profit from the hotel, Rossi said. The resort would attract families, tournaments and couples. While one family member may golf, the others would explore the Central Coast, he explained.

As public hearings are announced, I will post them on this blog.


Sunday, November 13, 2005

North Coast Cooking

Over the weekend, a friend of mine and I went up north to Paso Robles to demonstate cooking a turkey in a dutch oven turkey type roaster. I've posted our exploits over on my regular blog, and you can read about it here. Umm, umm good!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

NCAC Incorporation Meeting

The NCAC Incorporation subcommittee is meeting on Tuesday 11/15/05 at 6:00 pm at the Nipomo Public Library, located at 918 W. Tefft Street. The agenda for this meeting follows:
Agenda
Tuesday, November 15, 2000 6:00 pm at the Nipomo Library the next meeting of the committee will have Mr. Paul Hood, Executive Director of LAFCO (The Local Agency Formation Commission) as our guest speaker. Last month the committee heard from a community that is in the process of evaluating Incorporation. This month we will get a better understanding of the legal process to Incorporate. If Nipomo decides to Incorporate, all of the paperwork will be submitted to LAFCO for their review and consideration. Without the approval of LAFCO, the process is stopped. Come with questions and an open mind. For those that would like to read up on LAFCO, their web site is www.slolafco.com
We hope to see you at the meeting.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Nipomo's Newest Golf Course

Yesterday's Tribune has a short blurb about Nipomo's newest golf course. According to the Tribune, the course named Monarch Dunes, at the new Woodlands community will open at the first of the year. Next week is the grand opening of the clubhouse, restaurant, and golf shop.
Set to open by the first of the year, Monarch Dunes at the Woodlands, will be the first public golf course to be completed in the mammoth Nipomo Woodlands development.
This is an exciting time for Nipomo, and for all you golfers out there. This will bring to three, the number of major world class courses on the Nipomo Mesa (likely all within 10 miles or less of each other). Currently there is Blacklake, Cypress Ridge, and now Monarch Dunes. I am a horrible golfer; but, I love to get out on the links and have a good time.

The Monarch Dunes will be patterned after the traditional courses of Scotland and Ireland, where golfing has its earliest roots. It will look like the nearby sand dunes, rather than having lots of grassy mounds. And, the sand on the course apparently comes from sand on the site. Several holes will also allow a great view of the ocean:

The Scottish links-styled, 18-hole, 6,800-yard championship course was designed by Damian Pascuzzo, a Cal Poly graduate and partner of Graves and Pascuzzo, a golf architecture firm in El Dorado Hills.

Monarch Dunes will be managed by KemperSports, which also manages Palm Springs' Desert Willow, Black Gold in Yorba Linda and Harding Park Golf Course in San Francisco.

"This is truly a unique golf course and the only one in the county patterned after the traditional links in Scotland and Ireland," said Mark Luthman, KemperSports regional director. "It's very rugged looking, with native fescue grasses, beach grasses and natural sand dunes. It mimics the appearance of nearby dunes, using shaped dunes instead of the traditional grassy mounds, and there will be a number of holes from where you can see the ocean."

Pascuzzo said the golf course was built from the sand on the site.

Even more exciting to the local Nipomo economy is the projection of its own shopping center and the potential for a 500 room hotel. These factors are critical to the potential incorporation of Nipomo as a city:

The Woodlands development, which began construction in April 2004, will take 10 to 15 years to build. It will include 1,320 homes, two 18-hole courses and one nine-hole course, a business park, a 500-room hotel, riding and hiking trails, a shopping center, and a 12-acre park.
Next week, take a drive and check out the new local restaurant, and golf shop. And, just after the first of the year, plan to tee up on our newest local course. See you on the links!

Update: More information on the Monarch Dunes can be found here.