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Credibility challenged

Arguments about Morro Bay's water recycling facility should use up-to-date documents, not old ones

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I am responding to commentary published in New Times by Cynthia Hawley ("No public benefits," Aug. 9). Ms. Hawley's diatribe against the city of Morro Bay is based on a few facts that she used to spin into a story about how the city leaders are plotting a nefarious bait- and-switch in buying 30 acres of land when the proposed water recycling facility (WRF) needs only 5.7 acres.

She uses that fact in her allegation that the city is conspiring to get a large development there. She alleges that the high cost of building a new wastewater treatment facility at the Tri W site (otherwise known as the South Bay Boulevard site), "is just collateral damage to the evident purpose of removing the barriers to development of private property that has been undevelopable for years."

Ms. Hawley may be honing her legal argument for a lawsuit she's dreaming up for when the count is in and the rate hike is approved. The gist of her argument is that the city's ulterior motive at the South Bay Boulevard site "is for the purpose of subsidizing private interest." She used the easy-to-read five-page memorandum of understanding from Oct. 25, 2016, available on the city's website as her source of evidence.

I believe this line of "reasoning" may have originated on a social media website in mid-July in a post by a sewer protester who is an associate of Ms. Hawley. It said, and I quote, "The new WRF purchase agreement (sic) for the property at South Bay will provide water for all of the land east of Highway One from the retirement home all the way to the existing houses on Hillcrest ... ." It goes on to say that it will pave the way for the development of 200 homes and will give the owner access to water for such a development.

In fact, this is not news, nor is it accurate, unless you call 2-year-old information from October 2016 new. The referenced document specifies water for agricultural use, with no mention of housing. That is a whole different issue. View the actual memorandum of understanding on the city's website: morrobaywrf.com/site/wp-content/uploads/MOU-Tri-W-Fully-Executed-201610251534.pdf

This is complete and total demagoguery. Ms. Hawley's story is, simply put, fear mongering and scare tactics. This narrative has played very well to the naysayers on social media.

I object to this leap of logic where imagination run wild has been shaped into a dystopian story about how Morro Bay will be sacrificed to out of control development, based on this simple memorandum of understanding (not a purchase agreement), and I also object to New Times publishing this garbage with no answering opinions.

Has an updated memorandum of understanding been written and signed? Unless it was generated and approved by council and staff recently, the naysayers are digging up old stuff and putting their desperate and deceptive spin on it.

Having grown up on a ranch, I will allow that Ms. Hawley may not be aware that grazing land near the plant would be rendered useless for grazing cattle by the activity of the plant, and that the owner recognized this.

I do believe, however, that Ms. Hawley is very well aware that the city cannot simply waltz in and change their stated intent of buying the property. The city's intent is stated clearly on page 1 of the memorandum, Item C: The Tri W site "has been identified as one such property that is preferred for acquisition by city for use in constructing and operating the Water Reclamation Facility."

Ms. Hawley claims that the city has conducted "no analysis of the impacts that this growth might have on the community and its resources." She goes on to state, "The council just made a deal with the property owner." Here's the clincher: "Unfortunately, in Morro Bay this behavior by the City Council no longer surprises us," she said.

What is most obvious here is what Ms. Hawley might consider inconvenient truths. The memorandum of understanding is written in black and white. This said memorandum of understanding states nothing, nor does it allow for any confusion, that the land in question is intended to be used for other than the water reclamation facility. And that, is the deception, most unfortunate. Δ

Carol Swain lives in Morro Bay. Respond to editor@newtimesslo.com.

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