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LAFCO OKs Los Olivos Vote on Creating Community Services District

Some in Santa Ynez Valley town seek to keep local control while others urge different solution to wastewater woes

Members of the Local Agency Formation Commission listen Thursday to discussion of a proposal to form a community service district in Los Olivos in the Santa Ynez Valley. The panel agreed to allow the community to vote on the plan. Click to view larger
Members of the Local Agency Formation Commission listen Thursday to discussion of a proposal to form a community service district in Los Olivos in the Santa Ynez Valley. The panel agreed to allow the community to vote on the plan. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Los Olivos residents will get to vote on the proposed creation of their own community services district, a regional panel ruled Thursday afternoon. 

After hearing pleas for and against creation of a special district, the Local Agency Formation Commission voted to authorize putting the matter before residents in the Santa Ynez Valley community.

“This has a been a long process,” said LAFCO Chairman Roger Aceves, who serves on the Goleta City Council.

“As said before by some of the commissioners, you still have a long road ahead of you and a lot of homework to get to the next step,” Aceves said. “But the bottom line is your community has a right to vote, up or down, and we should offer the opportunity.”

The push comes as Los Olivos deals with the designation of the community as a special-problem area due to concerns with septic tanks and groundwater amid increasingly stringent regulations.

Los Olivos residents have been lobbying for their own community services district to keep local control, and contend it would be quicker than being annexed into the Santa Ynez Valley CSD.

“The community is going to have to pay for those services whether another district provides them for us or we form our own district,” said Lisa Palmer, a member of the Los Olivos Water Reclamation Steering Committee. 

“Again, we continue to believe that our pencils will be the sharpest since we’re the ones writing the checks, rather than annexation,” Palmer said.

“After 135 years, this is our moment in time to give our community a formal voice and obviously protecting our groundwater and finally addressing these issues,” added Jaime Dietenhofer, another Steering Committee member. 

He added that LAFCO’s decision would lets residents decide the issue. 

“This is not the wishes of any outside interest groups, this is not the wish of any outside agencies who would benefit financially from this,” he added. 

Hillary Hauser from Heal the Ocean told LAFCO members time is running out to address wastewater problems in Los Olivos. Click to view larger
Hillary Hauser from Heal the Ocean told LAFCO members time is running out to address wastewater problems in Los Olivos. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Those opposed to the new special district say it would be costly and time consuming when a quicker fix is needed. 

Resident Tom Nelson questioned whether the valley needs another government agency, noting the large number of elementary school and special districts. 

“We have an existing CSD who’s willing to take it on,” Nelson said. “We have an existing water supplier whose willing to work with us. Why reinvent the wheel? Why go back and start this all over again?”

Hillary Hauser from Heal the Ocean said time is running out since the Regional Water Quality Board is moving closer to taking action in Los Olivos.

"If this CSD is approved, the timeline is going to go to the regional board,” Hauser said. “This whole effort is for local control. It’s not going to be local control. It’s going to be regional board control.”

In voting on the issue Thursday, LAFCO determined the district’s formation would be exempt from California Environmental Quality Act, identified the boundaries, and spelled out what Los Olivos voters would decide.

In 30 days, LAFCO will hold a protest hearing, and if objections do not add up to a majority, the panel would formally request county officials conduct the election. 

If approved by voters, the CSD would have five board members and be allowed to assess a special tax of $200,000 yearly for administrative costs. 

According to estimates, a wastewater system would cost the community $21 million. 

Los Olivos residents likely would cast their vote-by-mail ballots sometime this summer, LAFCO representatives said. 

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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