Yucca Valley Landowners Approve Wastewater System Assessments

(May 14) By a significant margin, Yucca Valley voters passed a measure to form an assessment district to build a sewer system to serve the town of 20,700.
As of the May 13 deadline, 5,488 of the 10,326 ballots mailed out had been returned. Of those 5,488 ballots received, 4,942 were deemed valid, with 546 being rejected because the ballots were improperly filled out.
The tallying of the ballots was not based upon the simple number of votes for or against approving the sewer system assessments. Rather, each of the ballots was accorded weight based on the proposed assessment value of the property owned by the voter. Under this measure, 72 percent of those responding, represnting $49.1 million in estimated property value, favored the levying of the assessments, while 28 percent, speaking for $18.9 million in propery value, voted no.
Since 2011, the community of Yucca Valley has been under a mandate by the Regional Water Quality Control Board to complete or to make significant progress toward the f[rst phase of a sewer system, covering the downtown area of Yucca Valley, by May 19, 2016; complete the second phase of the system by May 19, 2019 and the third phase by May 19, 2022. If each progressive stage of the project is not completed, the state is threatening enforcement intended to prevent future use of existing septic systems, which are considered to be contaminating the local water supply. The state threats included fines of amounts as much as $5,000 per day against those continuing to use their septic systems or who do not vacate their property.
The first phase of the project is to serve the area most proximate to the heart of the groundwater basin. The last two phases lie further out where future concentrated development is most likely to occur.
The assessments will fund the Hi-Desert Water District’s undertaking of he project. It is the Hi-Desert Water District rather than the town of Yucca Valley which will serve as the lead agency on the project.
There has long been opposition to the mandated sewer system. Many Yucca Valley residents, including leading citizens and politicians such as former mayor and state assemblyman and current congressman Paul Cook, resisted the direction from the water quality control board to build the system, decrying it as an unfunded state mandate. Others, noting that the town council and water board were manned by individuals who have been provided with political and monetary support by developmental interests, suggested imposition of the assessments would transfer the financial burden of providing infrastructure from those standing to profit by aggressive growth in town to its residents, a large number of whom live just above, at, or below the poverty line.
Others who own undeveloped property in town as an investment or possible site for a retirement home, were concerned that the assessments exceeded the value of their vacant land.
The prospect of state action that conceivably would have resulted in rendering their homes inhabitable and transforming Yucca Valley into a ghost town apparently convinced enough of the populace to support the assessment regime.

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