The Coastal Post - September, 1998

Development Betrayal By Supes A Legal Waterloo

By Jim Scanlon

In allowing the County of Marin to be "the public entity" to regulate a centralized sewage system to be run by a Home Owners Association, not yet in existence, four of our Supervisors have unnecessarily inserted our county into a myriad of potential future disputes. No on knows, or can begin to estimate, what the cost to the county might be once the developer collects his profits and moves on. How will the county collect on a bond in a default? How will it impose leans on homes? How will it dispose of property seized? Are there any precedents? How much will this cost? Was this a sensible thing to do?

One can easily imagine that any suit by future homeowners against the developer would automatically involve county government. The homeowners who are to occupy the development, may wake up one day with problems they never anticipated and, not having read the fine print, decide to sue.

There is and was, no compelling reason for the county to have gotten involved in this project. There is nothing to benefit the county. Supervisor Steve Kinsey was deeply enmeshed in this project for years, before he was elected to office. Supervisors Rose and Kress went along with the agreement to have the county sponsor the project at a review hearing after a discussion of a few minutes. Hal Brown voted for it but didn't seem to know what he was voting for since he was not there for any part of the discussion.

Only Harry Moore who will unfortunately soon be leaving, questioned the wisdom of this action. Moore said, " Even though I voted against it originally, I guess I should have read the fine print more thoroughly!" So three Supervisors followed the leader. They might well have considered the plight of the Lagunitas School District Trustees, who, once inserting the school into an agreement with the developer, quickly got stuck in something they couldn't easily get out of. They are now counting on state funds to bail the district out.

And so, without any public notice or discussion our representatives inserted county government into a process which will surely cause trouble for future boards. What makes this so hard to understand is that there is, and was , no reason for the county to assume this burden-except to do a favor for a Supervisor for a developer.

Kinsey is quoted in the Gannett Independent Journal saying "...the project was approved after seven public hearings " This is deceptive: the project was approved at public hearings, but the involvement of the County of Marin as "the public entity," the sponsor was never considered in public. It was done behind closed doors. This is no trivial matter considering that several other developments are now pending in West Marin.

The IJ quotes the Chief of the Regional Water Quality Control Board defining "public entity" as assuming final legal and financial responsibility. Just exactly what does this mean? To find out you have to spend at least $100 an hour for maybe a year or two.

Kinsey has characterized the appeal to the State Water Resources Control Board as "grasping at straws." This concerns a novel, complicated, costly waste water discharge permit granted to a corporation which will transfer it to an Association of (rich) Homeowners not yet in existence. More like grasping at logs!

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