Stinson could levy big water fines

03/27/2014

If the Stinson Beach County Water District votes in May to enforce a draft rationing ordinance approved this week, residents will be limited to an average of 125 gallons a day, but the cap won’t be set in stone for full-timers. Those who live in Stinson for over half the year will be eligible to apply for larger allotments of up to 185 gallons a day, and meters that serve both a primary home and a second unit can apply for a 250-gallon allotment. Part-timers would be barred from asking for more. Don Henderson, who owns a home in Stinson but is not a full-timer, believes that is a “prejudicial taking” because it would harm property values and create a system that benefits those who vote for the district’s board members. It divides the town into two classes of people, he said. “It won’t look good when someone tries to sue you,” he told the district at a Monday meeting. But Board President Barbara Boucke said the district has a responsibility to those who live in town full time. “I believe our first and foremost obligation is to our [full-time] residents,” she replied. Regardless of their residential status, those who exceed their ration could rack up hundreds of dollars in fines and stop receiving water altogether because of the ordinance’s quickly escalating fine system. The first month exceeding the 125-gallon limit merits a warning; another month in violation during mandatory rationing, whether consecutive or not, merits a $400 fine, plus a requirement to pay $100 for every 100 cubic feet (or 748 gallons) used beyond the limit. A third notice comes with an $800 fine, plus the same extra charges. After that, a homeowner would be called to a hearing before the board, which could potentially cut off water altogether. Sarah Butler, a Stinson resident and realtor who works in vacation rentals, supports the ordinance. She already has a clause in her contracts imposing fines on renters who exceed a limit; one or two people have cancelled their rentals because of the water-use provision in her contract, but big parties that cancel for those reasons aren’t good for the community’s limited water supply, she said. The district began considering mandatory rationing in the winter, but delayed imposing an ordinance because of recent rains and reduced water use. The draft ordinance will now be reviewed by the water district’s counsel.