Rodoni group will explore special district for Point Reyes

08/22/2018

This fall, Supervisor Dennis Rodoni will form a working group to identify the most pressing issues in Point Reyes Station and consider creating a special services district to address them. 

He wants the group, which will include members of the Point Reyes Station Village Association, the West Marin Chamber of Commerce, local business owners and residents, to pinpoint the area’s needs. “For a long time now the community, the county and myself recognized that Point Reyes Station and its immediate surrounding areas have some infrastructure issues primarily related to solid waste, bathrooms and parking,” he said. “Once we can identify those, we can prioritize the top five or so and look at how we address them.” 

Depending on the issues, the group could pursue different districts—a community services district, a sanitation district or a cemetery district, among others. 

There are over 2,000 special districts in California that generally give unincorporated areas a way to manage public services such as wastewater management, fire protection and security. While there are several special districts in West Marin—Tomales has a services district that handles wastewater treatment and a park, and Inverness has a utilities district for fire protection and water service, for example—none exist in Point Reyes Station. 

There, Supervisor Rodoni said, a district could handle matters like the creation and upkeep of public bathrooms or a pool. 

Unlike a village association, a services district is created through a local election and has the capacity to raise money. They can hire employees, acquire property and issue bonds. Forming a district does not come without its challenges, however. 

In its guide, the California Special Districts Association describes the process as “expensive and time-consuming.” Proponents of the formation are responsible for the execution (and payment) of a feasibility study, mapping of the district, a California Environmental Quality Act analysis and a protest hearing regarding the district’s formation. At the hearing, if protesters amount to more than 25 percent but less than 50 percent of registered voters within the proposed district’s bounds, an election must be held to determine whether the district should be formed and who its board members should be. 

The idea has at least some preliminary support. At a village association meeting earlier this month, Mark Switzer said such a district could be one way to “cope with increasing pressure on our town by visitors and residents.” 

A district, he said, could have targeted local control and focus on specific services. As a downside, he noted, it could also make governance and approvals process more bureaucratic, and its method of funding could also become a point of contention. 

Special districts are often funded through service fees or parcel taxes, though Supervisor Rodoni said they can also obtain money through grants for certain projects like the creation of a park. 

Other members were also excited about the possibility of more localized control. “It would be better than calling the county and getting a no every time,” said Ken Levin, a member of the village association’s leadership circle who intends to be part of the working group. “It would be a better way for us to have a say.”