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Annexations impacts studied
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Ceres officials are may pursue annexation of three areas presently in the county. But before they vote to bring in the 175 acres into the city limits, they want to consider all of the financial implications.

Last month the council approved a $44,500 study to study the costs of serving the residents once they are brought into the fold and analyze all of the area's infrastructure needs. But the firm of Economic & Planning Systems, Inc. will chiefly be commissioned to look into the master property tax sharing agreement as it applies to the area.

The agreement between the city and county calls for a 70 percent split to the county and 30 percent to the city will be sufficient to cover services.

Three areas are being examined for annexation:

• The 111-acre Collins Estate area, generally west of Highway 99, between Industrial Way and Service Road, and east of Central Avenue.

• The 60-acre Walnut Manor/Stonum Road annexation area, between Lehi Avenue and Hatch Road and between Wallin Way on the east and Central Avenue on the west;

• Four acres at the northwest corner of Hatch and Stonum roads.

The city wants to annex the three areas in order to create logical city boundaries.

Talk about absorbing the county "islands" was prompted by the Ceres City Council, said Ken Craig, Director of Community Development for the city of Ceres. The issue came up when developers of the Maple Glen master plan - to develop on land south of the Collins Road island - presented plans for annexation. The council, said Craig, recognized that annexing Maple Glen would create a county island with Collins Road area.

Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO, the body that decides on annexation requests, approves of cities swallowing up county islands if they make sense. County islands are discouraged from being formed because of the confusion that it leads to when providing services, such as police services.

"I suspect given the rules in which LAFCO has to operate under the Cortes-Knox-Hertzberg Act, they have to look at the issue of whether or not an annexation creates a county island. If in fact it would then, yes, I would suspect that LAFCO would say, if you want to do Maple Glen, you've got to address the Collins Road area."

Discussion about the Collins Road area prompted discussion about two islands north of Hatch Road, which are the last holdouts. Developments have slowly nibbled away at the size of those county islands but pockets of resistance survive.

"When staff took the issue of that annexation to the council, the council, I believe, said, "can you also come back to us and talk to us about the other county island areas?' " said Craig.

City officials had attempted in the past to annex the county island in the Payne/Wallin area but residents there had personal animosity toward the plan.

Craig said the council is "certainly going to be open to the concerns and issues of the residents of those areas."

Sarah Ragsdale, Administrative Services Director for the city of Ceres, said it's a "good business" practice to assess the cost of services versus expected revenues. She said the study would serve as a basis for talking to the county about making improvements before annexation occurs.

The annexation would also allow the city improve services such as water, sewer, and storm drainage to property owners. The Collins Road area is one of the more economically depressed areas of the Ceres area, with a number of trailer parks and neighborhoods without adequate infrastructure. Many of the streets lack curb, gutter and sidewalk and the roads need repair.

"Any time you look at a county area that was not developed to city standards, you have to look at the issue of inheriting that property that may be deficient in certain areas of infrastructure," said Craig. "So we are looking at that. We are refining our numbers in terms of what those costs might be."

It's conceivable that the City Council might not pursue annexations if the annexation area is going to adversely affect city expenses.