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Sewer rates take a hike

Posted: June 24, 2009 8:48 p.m.
Updated: June 25, 2009 4:55 a.m.

New Santa Clarita Valley residents and businesses will pay hundreds or thousands of dollars more than existing residents for sewer connection fees beginning January, the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District board decided Wednesday night.

The move, prompted by inflation, growth and rising costs for the sewer agency, raised concerns among critics it would make the valley’s empty storefronts and restaurants harder to fill.

“All it would do is make our job harder (to bring in businesses),” said Michael Strahs, vice president of development for Terramar Retail Centers, which built the Plaza at Golden Valley.

“It would add an extra hurdle that is man-made.”

The sanitation district’s board of directors — Santa Clarita Mayor Frank Ferry, Councilwoman Laurene Weste and Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich — unanimously approved the 14 percent increase to the sewer connection fee.

It will take effect in January.

Currently, the sewer connection fee for single-unit homes is about $3,300. It will rise to about $3,800.

The increase will also affect restaurants and businesses. Currently, restaurant owners must pay about $23,000 per 1,000 square feet of space. Starting January, that would rise to about $26,000.

The board also approved a $1.67 per month annual increase to the monthly sewer charge for all SCV residents, bringing it from $14.92 to $16.59. This increase will take effect in August.

Sanitation district chief engineer and general manager Stephen Maguin said the hikes were necessary, citing growth, soaring construction and fuel costs, and inflation.

The board chose raising the sewer connection fee — which targets new restaurants and businesses — over a sharper increase to the monthly fee — which would affect everyone — to avoid essentially punishing current residents for the valley’s growth, he said.

“If you’ve lived in Santa Clarita 25 years, your quality of life shouldn’t change because of the new 3,000 people or the new restaurants,” Ferry said.

The increase, though derided by some critics as an unfair tax increase during a recession, is a compromise.

Sanitation district officials had initially recommended a 36 percent increase, which would have put the connection fee at $4,500 for single-unit homes, to take effect in August. The board reduced the hike and delayed it.

Ferry said the board took the action to give businesses a few more months to move in and pay the cheaper fees.

“There’s a Mervyns shut down, there’s a mall with no tenants, so I have to make sure that we bring people in,” Ferry said.
Strahs, whose company built the 620,000 square foot Golden Valley Plaza retail center, had pleaded with the board to delay or vote down the increase.

Following the vote, he said he was somewhat pleased with the compromise.

“We certainly appreciate the board’s sensitivity with dealing with this difficult issue,” he said.

But he added the costs “are already extraordinary.”

“But it is what it is,” he said.



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