A fter a somewhat short-lived rollout for new connections back in 2011, Montara Water and Sanitary District is again issuing water connections to local residents. The California Coastal Commission didn’t think MWSD did the paperwork correctly back then, so it made the local district modify its public works plan and imposed a temporary moratorium on connections. (See my articles dated Sept. 28, 2011 and June 12, 2013.) Now the Coastal Commission is satisfied and connections are available.
There are a few questions many may have, so let me try and address them.
Why is MWSD able to issue connections now, after decades of moratoriums? According to Clemens Heldmaier, general manager of MWSD, there are a few reasons, such as improving the infrastructure, the new Alta Vista well and conservation by the public. But Clemens thinks the most important factor is the extraordinary conservation effort by residents. He said the district now has the lowest daily consumption (64 gallons of water per person a day) in the state.
Who can get a water connection? All vacant-land owners, with or without a well in place, must hook up to MWSD for water. There are probably a few exceptions to this (such as when the distance is too far to a water line) that will be sorted out over time.
All homeowners on wells now — around 300 — will also have to convert to municipal water. The vacant- land owners, either with or without an existing well, have no choice about hooking up if they want to develop their property. But they can only get a water connection if building plans have been submitted to the county. If you want to buy one now and wait, that’s no longer possible.
What do I do with my old well? Homeowners on wells are supposed to abandon their wells and connect to MWSD. Many homes have restrictions on their grant deeds saying that. But the reality is, there is no mechanism in place to force you to do that. A suggestion for those planning on converting to municipal water is to disconnect the well from your home but keep it for landscaping purposes. This will save you money on your water bill, as the only cost for the well is the electricity to power the pump. Additional water conservation techniques are to hook up wine barrels to your home’s down spouts and employ drip irrigation lines to water your plants. This is free water once you’ve paid for the equipment.
The question most want to know is how much is this going to cost? It’s about $15,000 for the connection and another $5,000 or so for permits, engineering and trenching to bring the water line from the street to your home.
Heldmaier thinks there is enough surplus capacity in MWSD’s system to satisfy the needs of all the landowners, homes on wells and several large-scale projects on the drawing boards. I don’t want to argue with an expert, but my cynicism about how business is done here on the coast makes me think the final number will not be that large.
That brings me back to my previous suggestions for which I’ve been criticized. For many years I have been telling people to grab the permits while they are available. The history of development here has been somewhat contentious and there seems to be no shortage of new ideas on how to slow things down.
Land sales, which have been the worst sector of the real estate market, are starting to show signs of improvement. That is partly because a few banks are now making both land and construction loans again. But that uptick in building permit applications could result in some groups starting to complain about over-development here and the perceived problems it causes.
If you own vacant land or have a well in an area where wells have failed, you might want to rush to get plans started and go to MWSD and apply. You might not want to be the 400th person looking for a connection.
Steven Hyman is the broker and owner of Century 21 Sunset Properties. He can be reached at 726-6346 or at www.century21sunset.com