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Monday, November 19 , 2018, 6:58 am | Fair 48º

 
 
 
 

LAFCO Hears From Fans, Foes of Proposed Los Olivos Community Services District

Wastewater problems prompt debate about future of Santa Ynez Valley town

The Rev. Randall Day from St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church speaks Thursday in support of creating a community-services district in Los Olivos to address the community’s wastewater problems.
The Rev. Randall Day from St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church speaks Thursday in support of creating a community-services district in Los Olivos to address the community’s wastewater problems. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

At least 280 Los Olivos residents support formation of a community services district to work on the community’s wastewater woes while maintaining local control, according to an application submitted to a regional board. 

The Santa Barbara County Local Agency Formation Commission met in Santa Maria on Thursday afternoon to receive an update on the Los Olivos wastewater issue, hearing several residents speak in favor of creating a community services district.

A long-standing situation involving the community’s septic tank systems has earned Los Olivos the label of "special problem area."

But new rules have made the situation more urgent with a push to create a sewer system to avoid property owners being saddled with costly fixes and fines.

The Santa Ynez Community Services District applied to expand its sphere of influence, a step toward including Los Olivos within its boundaries. Some speakers favored this option.

The item was only informational for the LAFCO board’s at Thursday meeting, with Executive Officer Paul Hood saying he expected to return with an analysis on the creation of a community services district by March.

By the time the application was submitted this week, 44 percent of the more than 500 registered voters in Los Olivos supported creating a community services district, with some attending the meeting to voice their opinion.

The Rev. Randall Day from St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church said  the community is committed to self-governance and solving its wastewater woes. 

Hillary Hauser of Heal the Ocean supports an alternate plan for addressing wastewater woes in Los Olivos — annexing the community to the Santa Ynez Community Services District. Click to view larger
Hillary Hauser of Heal the Ocean supports an alternate plan for addressing wastewater woes in Los Olivos — annexing the community to the Santa Ynez Community Services District.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

"In conversations I’ve had, it is clear that we are strongly opposed to potentially suburbanizing the Santa Ynez Valley with regional infrastructure that has the potential of supporting high-density development across the currently unincorporated areas of the Santa Ynez Valley,” Day said. 

The Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan clearly calls for limiting urban sprawl and creating buffer zones to maintain the character of each town, Day said. 

A report for the Los Olivos committee spearheading the campaign to create a community services district drew criticism, but Day said the it has been critiqued unfavorably.

"Formation of this community services district in Los Olivos is a necessity,” said businessman Keith Sarloos. 

A lack of public restrooms for visitors is one problem plaguing the popular tourist community.

“This could solve many problems, just in the formation,” Sarloos said. “I implore you to please let the community continue down this path.”

“I urge you to vote for self-determination. This is a Los Olivos problem,” added Jim Lohnas, a resident and property owner. “It needs to be resolved by Los Olivos residents and governed by Los Olivos residents.”

Not all speakers favored an independent community services district.

Resident Bonita Sergeant said the Santa Ynez district has three decades of experience in dealing with wastewater problems and urged LAFCO to let residents assess costs and options of joining the neighboring district.

And Hillary Hauser from Heal the Ocean also favored having the Santa Ynez CSD manage the solution for Los Olivos.

“Our position is that the Los Olivos wastewater problem be taken care of in the most efficient manner and reasonable length of time,” she said.

Rick Battles, attorney for the Santa Ynez Community Services District, said the agency did not want to compete against the Los Olivos proposal and only sought to help solve the wastewater problem. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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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