Facing penalties that could have cost Half Moon Bay in excess of $1 million, the city council on Tuesday approved the settlement of a lawsuit alleging the city botched drainage ditch work that obstructed the flow of storm water.
The council agreed to reimburse the plaintiffs in “James Lawrence Benjamin and Zoya Dorry Benjamin v. City of Half Moon Bay” $295,000 in legal expenses.
Terms of the deal also included the retroactive processing of a Coastal Development Permit for maintenance work performed in 2009. The city must also hold a public hearing to consider updating the City’s coastal resources map to include the Kehoe ditch and adjacent areas as potential California red-legged frog habitat , as well as proceedings to consider vacating an unneeded easement for potential future street purposes along Pilarcitos Avenue.
A judge in 2011 ruled that the drainage ditch work, which involved the removal of several small willow trees and other vegetation obstructing the flow of storm water caused minimal property damage, but assessed a $1,000-per-day fine covering a period of almost three years from the date of the project's completion to the date of the court's ruling for failing to issue a Coastal Development Permit.
“With this agreement, we are finally able to put this unfortunate issue behind us and focus our complete attention on other City priorities,” Mayor Allan Alifano said in a prepared statement.
“Although we carefully considered challenging the court’s opinion on the Coastal Development Permit, it became clear that an appeal would have exposed the City to even greater risk and considerably more in legal fees. As a result, the City Council decided that settling the case was the right course of action for the City of Half Moon Bay.”