Marin IJ

Disputed flood fee vote OKd - again

Brad Breithaupt
Marin Independent Journal
Article Launched:08/28/2007 11:39:28 PM PDT

Over objections of a few critics of the controversial Ross Valley flood fee, Marin supervisors Tuesday unanimously reaffirmed their approval of the levy.

Supervisors, seated as the county flood control board, voted again to approve the fee after county lawyers advised them the action was needed to repel a legal attack.

The board's hearing took less than 20 minutes, most of which was consumed by opponents of the fee who urged supervisors to scuttle it.

Supervisor Susan Adams, who missed the initial July 17 vote approving the fee, joined her colleagues in the new vote. She defended the levy, stressing that the flood control work it will pay for will reduce the damage and danger of flooding that swamped the Ross Valley on New Year's Eve 2005.

Adams said that during that deluge, county rescue teams were needed to save people trapped by rising floodwaters.

The board's vote imposes the drainage fee narrowly approved in a special mail-in election held in the Ross Valley in June. The annual fee, which averages to $125 per single-family home, will raise $40 million over 20 years.

Supervisors originally endorsed the fee July 17. But because Adams was not present and Supervisor Charles McGlashan briefly stepped out and missed the vote, there were questions about whether the 3-0 tally approving it satisfied a legal requirement that calls for a two-thirds majority to put the fee on tax bills.

Basia Crane of Kentfield questioned the fairness of the charge, noting that most of those who will have to pay it suffered no damage during the 2005 flood.

"The other 91 percent of the parcels get no benefit whatsoever," she said. "If there is no benefit, there should be no fee."

The fee is imposed based on an estimate of the runoff generated by homes and businesses, not their potential for flooding.

Louise Mathews urged the board to abandon the levy and start over. "You have an opportunity to clean the mess up," Mathews said. "Bring it back. Do it right. Please."

County officials tossed out about 21 percent of the mail-in ballots because voters did not sign them as required in the special vote. If the unsigned votes were counted, the fee would have been rejected, an informal recount indicated.

San Anselmo lawyer Ford Greene, who has sued to invalidate the vote, also urged the board to reverse course.

Adams was the only supervisor to address the issue. She stressed the vote followed extensive public education and said the county process followed the law.

After the meeting, Supervisor Hal Brown noted the county still faces Greene's lawsuit.

"I think we are moving forward, but we are waiting to see what the court case brings us," he said.

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