The Coastal Post - August, 1998

Kinsey Lauds Joint Sewer Systems

Denser Developments Foreseen

School Lets Contract Without Money.

By Jim Scanlon

By allowing Marin County Government to oversee and maintain the construction of a "community" septic/sewage system on the French Ranch Development for a Homeowners Association which does not yet exist, all five Supervisors have paved the way for other developments in West Marin. Seven projects are ready to go and could add 220 homes, 86 of them in Point Reyes Station. Others would surely follow.

After the county supervisors "reviewed" and, in effect, sanctioned the actions of County Staff in agreeing to be "the public entity" required by the State, West Marin's Supervisor Steve Kinsey endorsed the joint sewer systems as "an advancement in our ability to have technical and legal protection for the community."

Kinsey also lamented the lost opportunity to have "tertiary treated water": that is, reused water from the original AIWPS systems-from large, open sewage ponds. "I look forward to the day, maybe a decade from now, when....[the French Ranch]...is built...when our community can recognize that the opportunity still exists and we can capture the water," he said.

Although a relative newcomer to politics, Kinsey, the owner of a Building Construction Consultant Firm, has proven himself to be a master of the intricacies of Civic Center bureaucracy, and may soon be the dominant Supervisor, if not already.

On June 30, 1998 the board of supervisors considered what might have seemed an innocuous item, #22: "Status report on administrative oversight of proposed community septic system: French Ranch and Lagunitas School." Ed Stewart, the county's Environmental Officer read and explained a letter to the State Regional Water Quality Control Board in which the county would provide regulatory oversight for the project, thus allowing it to go forward. A representative of the State Board was present and stated the proposed letter was agreeable to her agency and a discharge permit would be sent out "in a couple of day."

It was obvious that Board Chairman John Kress and Supervisor Annette Rose knew nothing of the letter which had been finalized the previous day. Supervisor Brown came in and out of the room and did not participate. Kinsey showed them where the letter was in their packets.

After hearing objections to the letter and the lack of a public hearing from Attorney John Sharp representing Valley homeowners Mark Warner and Toni Brumbaugh and also Dotty LeMieux representing "Save The Valley", Chairman John Kress asked for legal advice from the County's Attorney, Patrick Faulkner, and Mark Riesenfeld the newly appointed head of the county's administration.

After being reassured, Kress said he was satisfied that there was "no back room deal "and the deal was done. (Well, maybe-at the time writing this, a month later, the state has yet to provided the permit).

Before convening, Bill Noble, former Chairman of the San Geronimo Valley Planning Group addressed the Board. He identified himself as "...one of a very broad group of people and organizations ...[that have]... been working on the French Ranch as a model for community problem solving..."

Noble characterized the dispute over the joint sewage system as "exhausting and at times bizarre," which had, "...put our school in great jeopardy and it feels like that has been a deliberate tactic..." He thanked county staff, the Developer Bruce Berman, and each and every Supervisor except Harry Moore who voted against approving the decision and who had referred to the developer as holding the school hostage.

What was interesting in Noble's rambling celebration of everyone approving the project, were his comments on Kinsey quoted as follows:

"Then I want to thank Steve Kinsey, who worked on this long before he was supervisor when a couple of dozen of us came to him after we'd worked on this for a few months and sat down with him and said: 'We were wondering if you would like to sort of look at French Ranch and see what you can do about it.' He reached up on his shelf and pulled down a scrap book that consisted of several hundred photographs of every potential building site on French Ranch, analyzing their visual impact. He was months ahead of us and had done it sort of all by himself! So I want to thank you."

The Coastal Post has maintained over the last year that Kinsey has a conflict of interest voting on this project, since he proposed it to the Lagunitas School when an influential member of the San Geronimo Valley Planning Group and a paid consultant to the School District. In addition his construction consulting firm would seem to be in a position to benefit directly from Valley construction.

One might legitimately ask, what Kinsey was doing with a scrapbook of hundreds of photographs of every potential building site on French Ranch as testified to by a close collaborator?

The School

Meanwhile the Lagunitas School Board waits impatiently for the State Water Board to grant the French Ranch Development a discharge permit-or some kind of a permissive letter-no one seems sure. The District is under tremendous financial pressure to proceed with its sewage disposal system, but cannot proceed until French Ranch LLC and the French Ranch Partners grant them recorded easements.

Unless they get started soon and complete their system in time for school, they face additional pumping costs. The District actually does not now have sufficient money to pay for the estimated cost of construction as things stand. It is not clear exactly how much they are short.

On July 15, 1998 the Trustees met in another special meeting and accepted the lowest bid for construction, which according to Trustee Richard Sloan, left the District $120,000 short-and maybe $200,000 short-depending on whether certain costs are reimbursable. Since the bids ranged from a low of approximately $400,000 to $800,000, it seems likely that there may also be unanticipated costs for the low bidder who has never built a system like the one planned.

"Where is this money going to come from?" asked Sloan. (He has actually asked the same question during the last three board meetings.) Trustees Charrier and Marlow, who have always supported the joint sewage program, expressed confidence, along with the District's Superintendent and their Construction Consultant, that the state would reimburse them for unanticipated costs. Reed Stockton and Thelma Weiss expressed reservations and concerns, but seemed to feel trapped with no where to go but forward.

Sloan opposed the joint sewage plan from the beginning, because he said he "did not know where it would go, what it would look like, how much it would cost, and who would run it."

The vote was 4-1 to let the contract. Sloan walked out in seeming disgust shortly before the meeting ended.

In retrospect, the critical moment for the School District was last November when it was evident that the AIWPS Sewage Pond System could not be operated without the establishment of a Community Service District. (It is incorrect to state that the uproar in the community caused the plan to be changed.)

The point of no return was when Trustees Charrier, Marlow and Dodd held a special Board meeting just days before Dodd's term was to expire. The vote was 3-1 and committed the District to continue with the joint sewage system thereby denying newly elected Trustees Stockton and Weiss of a voice in deciding an issue that has outraged the community and is preoccupying them to the exclusion of the education of children.

Who Is The French Ranch?

The French Ranch Partners consist of three entities:

1) Honjo Capital Inc., also know as Honjo California Properties, Honjo USA Ltd., Honjo Investments holdings. Kaoru Noguchi President.

2) Gentium Realty Investments Inc. Gentium Realty, Gentium Realty Investments Texas, Gentium East Bay, Gentium Investments Inc., Gentium Development. President Kun Sam Kim, also known as Ken Kim

3) Elliott, Berman & Feldman Inc., Elliott & Berman Inc. On February 13, 1998, all of its rights, title and interest in and to the option agreement to French Ranch LLC.

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