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Ross Valley Sanitary Continues to Work on Clarifying Admin Process for New Inspection Ordinance

Good day MAR members!

Here in the dog days of summer, not much to do except fret about the Ross Valley Sanitary District! For those of you more interested in “above ground” matters, enjoy the warm days and great weather. I’m trying not to get too bummed about the Giants’ latest struggles while I wait for the NFL and college football seasons to start. Those stories offer a simpler and inherently more pleasant subject matter.

Oh, but the sewers!! I promise at the end of this memo you will find some good news, so please read on.

Last Thursday morning, MAR CEO Andy Fegley, President-Elect Matt Hughes, and I were back at the Ross Valley Sanitary District offices at another “working group” meeting. District staff was happy to share with us their progress on creating a clear administrative process for the new ordinance. However, we quickly realized that the practical matter of how this ordinance will affect the sale of a home was still untouched.

It all comes down to the matter of items 10.1 and 10.2 of the ordinance, which state that the timeframe of repair is at the discretion of the district’s engineer. The district’s engineer was at the meeting, so Andy asked him what is going to trigger the need for an immediate repair. He couldn’t tell us. We asked if there was sewage flowing down a hillside, would an immediate repair be necessary, and he said yes. Beyond that, he couldn’t tell us when a repair would need to be completed. We spent the remainder of our meeting making a clear argument for removing the need for repair from the escrow process.

We were asked by one of the inspectors why everyone wouldn’t just get their sewer line replaced before going to market? I had to gently explain that everyone doesn’t have an extra $7-10k sitting around in addition to whatever money they were going to spend on painting, flooring, landscaping, staging, etc. The notion of a “liquidity event” at close of escrow had to get drilled in over and over. I explained that $7-10k…or $25k or more… on “above ground” improvements will offer a vast return on investment…tens of thousands…sometimes hundreds of thousands…of dollars in extra sales price if it’s spent in the right places on the house…money that can then be spent on paying for the sewer repair. Money that’s available at the liquidity event. At and after close of escrow. This finally clicked with the district.

The following email came from Greg Norby, the RVSD General Manager, on Friday afternoon – HERE. Net-net, they’re backing off for now. Though the RVSD Board will need to vote on it at their next meeting…on August 27th…Norby is going to propose a 30-60 day postponement of the implementation of the ordinance to either the beginning or end of October. I’m going to strongly advocate for the latter date, as that will take us into November and the holiday season is one of the slower times in the Marin real estate marketplace. That’s a much better time to roll out a new ordinance…rather than September, which is the start of Marin’s second busiest season for real estate.

Also, they’re starting to get it as it relates to the need to have a simple process, and it appears Norby is going to advocate for a 1-page form that buyer and seller will sign, acknowledging the need for a repair and promising to get it done as quickly after escrow as possible…without holding up escrow.

Hang in there MAR, we are hoping for a fully-baked process in the coming months, not a half-baked, figure-it-out-as-you-go process three weeks from now.

That’s it for now!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week.

Blaine Morris
2014 MAR President