On Wednesday of last week, 2/27/08, The Nipomo Community Services District (NCSD) had an opportunity to move the business and commercial community forward by granting an intent to serve letter to a 71 room hotel. The directors punted, and delayed any decision until June. That was the wrong decision. The Tribune, has now weighed in with an editorial entitled Proposed Nipomo Hotel Deserves Water Service. The Tribune agreed with the NCSD decision, but cautioned that the board should recognize the need for a hotel in Nipomo. I agree with the Tribune that we do need a hotel in Nipomo; however, I disagree with the decision to delay, which I will explain below the jump.
The Tribune editorialized:
Editorial Opinion of The Tribune
Proposed Nipomo hotel deserves water service
Growing community will need taxes that more businesses would provide
When it comes to conserving scarce water resources, it’s better to err on the side of caution — which is why we support the Nipomo Community Services District for postponing a decision on granting water service to a proposed 71-room hotel.
The district’s board will reconsider the request in June, after it has the results of groundwater readings taken in the spring.
Certainly, the district’s board of directors is obligated to put the health of the basin first, especially since that remains Nipomo’s sole source of water.
But here’s our concern: After a nearly decade-long boom in homebuilding, we hope the district isn’t forced to deny water service to the businesses needed to serve the growing community.
That kind of lopsided development is bad from an economic standpoint; bad for the environment because it forces residents to drive further for shopping and services; and it’s just plain inconvenient for the growing number of residents and visitors to the community.
With a population of about 22,000 residents in the greater Nipomo area, the community is overdue for a hotel.
It does have a bed-and-breakfast inn, but Santa Maria and the Five Cities area are the closest places with a sizeable inventory of hotel rooms. That’s no doubt forcing visitors to those communities — which means less revenue for Nipomo.
If Nipomo is to ever have a real option of incorporating—an issue that’s been discussed, off and on, for years — it’s going to need the sales and bed taxes that more businesses will provide. But until it gets its water supply problem solved, that will continue to be a problem.
The district is moving forward on construction of a pipeline to Santa Maria, so it can import water from that city. That’s good.
But that project is expected to take three years, and in the meantime, Nipomo must continue to rely completely on the groundwater basin.
Until then, the community services district is going to have to be cautious in signing on new customers.We urge the agency to give priority to those services that are most needed—and we’d put a hotel among those at the top of the list.
The Tribune points out the obvious need for a hotel in Nipomo. It will bring much needed local revenue to support Nipomo’s incorporation efforts. It will help balance the growth our community has experienced which has overwhelming been residential over the last several years. Now that the commercial is beginning to catch up with projects that Nipomo desperately needs, the NCSD Board falters.
The Tribune, and presumably the NCSD Board implies we must be cautious in allowing new developments water because of Nipomo’s water situation. This reasoning fails on several counts:
First, the water crisis in Nipomo is a politically created crisis that has little or no foundation in fact. I have posted on this alleged crisis several times–which you can review here. Others have also written on this on the Nipomo Community egroup. It is a matter of record that the NCSD’s paid water conservationist, Celeste Whitlow, has taken an aggressive and unsupportable stance by issuing misleading information to the public and the press–see here. The questions the NCSD must answer if the public is to believe the current “the sky is falling” outlook are these:
Were the NCSD’s water experts who testified at trial all wrong in their analysis, data, and interpretation of that data? Were all those hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not more) wasted on the studies used to support the NCSD’s legal position at trial? Is the current data used by some with political agendas to stop or limit growth in Nipomo accurate? If so, then why didn’t the NCSD’s water experts know of this other data at trial or prior to trial? Why wasn’t this data more persuasive to convince the trier of fact that Nipomo’s water supply is in immediate danger of exhaustion and/or sea water intrusion? Why isn’t the NCSD suing their water litigation counsel for legal malpractice because they got it all wrong?
Second, this same NCSD board approved an intent to serve letter for this very same project on 9/14/2005, for an even larger projected water use. That intent to serve letter expired before the project could move forward. So, had the project been able to meet all its deadlines in a timely manner this water allocation would have already been made. Is the NCSD Board arguing that the water conditions have changed so significantly in the past two years that the basin no longer has the water sufficient for this project?
Third, the NCSD staff which makes the calculations, does the ground work, and makes the decisions on whether projects do or don’t deserve intent to serve letters actually recommended that the NCSD Board approve this intent to serve application on Wednesday.
And, it was an intent to serve recommendation for less water use than the prior intent to serve letter. It was also based on conservative based estimates of actual water use by this proposed facility. See the NCSD Board packet outlining all these facts here.
Fourth, the NCSD Board walks a very dangerous line if it denies a project within its district boundaries an intent to serve letter without having met the conditions outlined in the California Water Code dealing with building moratoriums. The NCSD has not met those guidelines for this or any other project, of which I am aware. If I were Rob Marinai, I would be warming up litigation counsel in the bull pen for the June meeting, and perhaps even bring him to the board meeting to help make the case for that intent to serve letter.
Yes, the Tribune is correct that the NCSD Board is obligated to put the health of the basin first, especially since that remains Nipomo’s sole source of water; however, given the facts established at the water litigation trial, and the fact this very same project has already been approved by this same board, it is quite unlikely the 71 room hotel will put the health of the Santa Maria Water basin in any jeopardy. I welcome any responses by the NCSD, or community at large.