The owner of a nursery who wants to build a 230-home development in Santiago Canyon has filed a lawsuit against local officials, claiming that they refused to agree to furnish enough water for the project.
Morton W. Herrmann, owner of Herrmann-Jensen Nurseries Inc., 19812 El Toro Road, El Toro, also claimed in the suit that the Santa Ana Mountains County Water District has in effect condemned his land by refusing to provide the water.
Herrmann's lawsuit alleges that the board lacks the authority "to implement a no-growth policy."
Board President Gunther M. Bauer denied that the district was attempting to discourage development. When the county Board of Supervisors adopted a general plan for development in 1976, water officials decided to allocate its existing supply as if that development had occurred, Bauer said. Herrmann, like any other developer, understood that building at a greater density than the general plan allowed meant he had to find water elsewhere, Bauer said.
"Water districts have a mandatory duty to provide water," said Teresa M. Ferguson, lawyer for Herrmann. She said the water board never formally enacted the allocation plan, which earmarks for Herrmann only enough water for 18 houses. Herrmann's suit asks for $10 million in damages.
Ferguson said less water will be used by the residential development than the nursery now uses.