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Goleta Officials Give Go-Ahead for Well Ordinance

Goleta officials on Tuesday fell short of approving an urgency ordinance banning new water-well development, but they will allow staff to craft new regulations related to a specific groundwater basin.

Staff came to the Goleta City Council asking for the urgency ordinance — to take effect immediately — after the Goleta Water District recently informed the city that a western portion of the groundwater basin wasn’t yet governed by such a law.

While the district serves most Goleta residents, there are wells that existed prior to incorporation within city limits.

The council needed a four-fifths vote to approve the emergency ordinance, but failed with 3-1 vote.

Councilman Roger Aceves said he was against the measure because it didn’t come before the ordinance committee for pre-vetting, and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Farr was absent.

Officials subsequently voted 3-1 — Aceves again dissented — to direct staff to work with community stakeholders to draw up an ordinance that could be permanent, especially as the area enters its fourth year of drought.

The Goleta Water District declared a Stage III Drought in May, and last month unanimously approved higher water rates, fixed meter charges and a new drought surcharge.

With water conservation in mind, staff hopes to further study current well regulations to recommend appropriate changes to the council at a future meeting.

An ordinance typically takes effect 30 days after council approval.

Goleta Planning Director Jennifer Carman said an urgency ordinance would have helped the district protect and manage groundwater basins to ensure public health, safety and the welfare of residents.

If approved, staff planned to come back with a permanent solution within 60 days.

Since the city was incorporated in 2002, no private property owner has filed an application to drill from the specified groundwater basin, Carman said.

Goleta Water District Operations Manager Tom Bunosky said the meeting was the first time he had heard about a proposed urgency ordinance, emphasizing that he’d like to communicate with the city better in the future.

“We are currently vigorously pumping water out of the ground basin to satisfy customers,” he said. “The basin will be the primary supply for customers come October,”

Staff said the intention would be to work with the district to make sure its operations aren’t negatively affected, meaning it could possibly be exempt in an ordinance provision.

A Goleta property owner said she was in favor of the urgency ordinance, understanding the groundwater basin’s importance.

“I look at this as a time out,” Mayor Paula Perotte said. “People are all talking about the drought and their concern. I think this is the responsible thing to do.”

Council members Michael Bennett and Tony Vallejo agreed, but Aceves voted against the motion.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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