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Water fee passes, hotel tax ordinance on hold

Pristine beaches may be priceless, but maintaining that beauty is not without a price tag. And when it comes to footing the bill, the majority of Del Mar property owners apparently agree it’s money worth spending.
In a citywide mail ballot election that began in late July, property owners approved a clean water service fee to help fund mandated programs requiring cities to implement specific procedures to minimize the amount of pollution entering the ocean and lagoons. 
Owners were asked to vote on two questions. The first sought ratification of the current five-year rate structure. The second addressed a proposed increase that will take effect in 2009. Results were announced at the Sept. 22 council meeting.
Based on the number of valid ballots returned, nearly 70 percent of the voters approved the existing rate schedule. Next year’s increase passed with more than 62 percent of the votes. Not all property owners voted on both questions.
The monthly service charge for single-family homes will be $8.09 beginning July 1, 2009. Rates will vary for multifamily, commercial and sewer-only customers. The fee is included in utility bills.
At the Sept. 22 meeting, council members also rescinded an ordinance introduced Aug. 11 to increase the transient occupancy tax paid by hotel visitors. Proposition H, a measure giving council the ability to increase the tax, will still appear on the November ballot. But council members agreed to wait until after the election to introduce an ordinance that would actually increase the TOT if Proposition H passes.
The ordinance introduced Aug. 11 included a subsection stating council would, when setting the TOT, consider other fees such as those assessed by a tourism marketing district promoting the city. Residents said they believed the subsection would limit the council’s ability to raise the tax to the full 13 percent or mandate the transfer of a large sum of general fund money to the hotels.