So if you didn’t get enough about stormwater fees from my most recent story, I wanted to pass along this detail about a fight brewing over Imperial Beach’s fee to prevent stormwater pollution.
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which sued Encinitas and Solana Beach over their stormwater fees and prompted the cities to put the fees up for a public vote, is also planning a lawsuit against Imperial Beach. Tim Bittle, the association’s director of legal affairs, told me that Imperial Beach broke the law by including the fee as part of their trash rates instead of putting it up for a public vote.
Bittle said a number of association members filed refund claims for the tax. “Ninety-nine percent of the time when we do that, the city will either ignore us or deny our claim,” he said. That paves the way for a lawsuit seeking repayment of the fees.
However, Imperial Beach took a different tack: It refunded the money to those residents. Bittle said the city attorney told him he figured it would be cheaper to pay refunds to that small group than to fight the taxpayers association in court.
The taxpayer group is still mulling the feasibility of a class-action lawsuit representing all the trash customers in Imperial Beach. But instead of seeking refunds of the money already collected, the suit would seek to bar the city from continuing to collect the fee, Bittle said.