By Allison Jarrell and Andrea Swayne

Dana Point’s main water utility, the South Coast Water District, and water districts statewide were watching closely as the San Juan Capistrano City Council voted in closed session May 8 to withdraw their petition for a rehearing of the tiered water rates case, Capistrano Taxpayers Association v. City of San Juan Capistrano. The petition had been filed three days prior by the city’s attorney for the case, Michael Colantuono, with the firm of Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley.

On April 20, the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled San Juan Capistrano’s tiered water rates unconstitutional. The court decided that San Juan’s 2010 tiered water rate system did not sufficiently show that each tier was based on usage and the actual cost of water delivery. The decision, according to SCWD officials, will eventually lead them and water districts to examine their own pricing structures.

A “petition for rehearing” was then filed May 5 by attorney Michael Colantuono. According to a city statement released after the May 8 closed session meeting, the City Council believed “that the petition exceeded their authorization, which was limited to correcting the record.”

Jim Reardon, a plaintiff in the case, showed up to the City Council’s May 5 meeting, accompanied by one of the lawyers who represented the Capistrano Taxpayers Association in the case, William Hensley. Both Reardon and Hensley urged the council to work on resolving and informally settling the case. Reardon said he was surprised by the filing.

Prior to the council’s May 8 closed session discussion, Mayor Derek Reeve wrote in an email to The Capistrano Dispatch that the petition was intended to be “for reconsideration in order to correct the court record.”

“The city has not appealed the decision and is communicating with CTA,” Reeve wrote.

While the petition for a rehearing has been rescinded, the city has yet to say whether they will appeal the April 20 decision.

SCWD General Manager and Board of Directors President Wayne Rayfield said that although the district’s rates are set through 2016, a careful examination of pricing is on the horizon.

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