Flood tax angers San Anselmo residents

January 24, 2008 7:52:39 PM PST
Frustration in San Anselmo, where money earmarked to prevent flooding along San Anselmo Creek is being held up by two lawsuits. Those suing say they're not standing in the way of a solution but following the law.

Julie McInerney lives along a tributary of San Anselmo Creek. Raising the house at a cost of $125,000 dollars was her way of avoiding another flood.

"It was about knee deep, thigh deep water," said flood victim Julie McInerney.

On New Year's Eve 2005, the San Anselmo Creek overflowed, flooding McInerney's entire first floor. Ten homes flooded and every time it storms, the threat returns.

McInerney thought a new storm water runoff fee would put an end to her worries. Property owners in the Ross Valley Flood Control District approved the fee last June. But two lawsuits are holding up the $1.2 million dollars already collected for improvements.

"No one's disputing there's corrective action that needs to be taken," said Wayne Lesser from Marin United Taxpayers Association.

Wayne Lesser represents the marine United Taxpayers Association. The MUTA is Suing Marin County, claiming some 7,000 property owners didn't get the opportunity to vote because the county provided only one ballot for each eligible property instead of each owner.

"What the concern is that people did not get notice of the right to vote or the right to vote as required by law," said Wayne Lesser.

A judge rejected the first suit filed by San Anselmo town councilmember Ford Greene. Greene claims the county illegally required ballots to be signed. Greene says had unsigned disqualified ballots been counted, the fee would have been defeated, and Greene is now appealing.

"It's very frustrating because some people are like we don't flood, I don't need to worry about it but we need to take more of a community view, especially with the downtown area impacted like it is every time it floods," said McInerney.

"I can't judge the mind of the populace, I can only judge the fact that if you don't follow the rules, you can't declare victory," said Lesser.

No court date has been set to hear the appeal of the first lawsuit challenging the ballots. The MUTA case goes to court in two weeks. In the meantime, it continues to rain.