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City still working through details of water fee

Posted: March 9, 2013 2:30 p.m.
Updated: March 9, 2013 2:30 p.m.

As supervisors prepare to hold a second public hearing on the county’s proposed storm water cleanup fee, a Santa Clarita official said it appears the county fee would be added on top of the existing city fee that serves the same purpose.

Travis Lange, Santa Clarita’s environmental services manager, said the city’s existing storm water fee — paid by property owners — funds a variety of pollution-prevention projects.

Lange said Santa Clarita representatives have raised concerns over the county’s proposed fee since mid-January, but its full impact will remain unclear until the Board of Supervisors votes on the matter.

“No one’s given me a call and said, ‘No, we’re not going to charge the citizens of the city of Santa Clarita because you already have this fee in place,’” Lange said.

The county’s proposed fee, known as the “Clean Water, Clean Beaches” measure, would assess an annual charge on virtually all property parcels in Los Angeles County to pay for water cleanup and pollution prevention.

County officials sent out notices about the measure just before Christmas and held a public hearing Jan. 15, which was continued until Tuesday because of a massive response, much of it negative.

The plan calls for property owners to vote by mail on the proposal unless overwhelming opposition nixes the idea first.

If approved, the fee would be levied against all property owners, including school districts, churches and businesses, as well as residences. It would be calculated based on size of property and pollution potential in water runoff.

Some property owners said their preliminary notices on the fee were far higher than county officials have estimated.

Santa Clarita, which owns a lot of land set aside for open space, would face fees on its property of about $461,490 per year, according to estimates.

The county estimates the average single-family residential fee at $82 a year, but commercial and industrial properties could see fees far higher.

According to the “Clean Water, Clean Beaches” measure website, a typical convenience store or fast-food restaurant would pay about $250 a year, while a typical home improvement or “big box” retailer see a bill of some $11,000 a year.

One of the major criticisms of the fee during the first Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors public hearing was that school districts are not exempt.

During that meeting, Newhall School District Superintendent Marc Winger said Santa Clarita Valley districts face combined fees of around $600,000 a year if the measure goes forward.

Each of the Santa Clarita Valley’s five school districts filed official protests against the fee. The city also filed protest forms on all of its properties, Lange said.

The county will tally all those protest forms during the second public hearing on the fee at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 W. Temple St. in Los Angeles.

If a majority of property owners do not turn in forms protesting the fee, supervisors can vote to move forward with the vote-by-mail balloting.

The fee would need a simple majority vote to pass.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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