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Major annexation must wait
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The city may not annex 960 acres to the western edge of Ceres until the Westport Fire Protection District and city have ironed out a tax-sharing deal.

Officials with the Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) decided Wednesday to not approve the massive expansion of the city until the two parties come up with a plan to keep the small rural fire district going. The annexation request will be reconsidered on March 28.

The panel did, however, approve a Municipal Service review (MSR) and a sphere of influence expansion.

The annexation, proposed by developer/ property owners G3 Enterprises, Rutland Properties and B.S. Boyle Jr. Limited Partnership, seeks to detach 960 acres from the county and add to the Ceres city limits for development. The action removes the property from the Westport district. Typically the new jurisdiction takes the tax revenue but LAFCO wants Ceres to share some of it to keep Westport operational.

Westport operates on $122,650 annually.

In November the Ceres City Council signed an agreement with Westport Fire for the sharing of taxes from the potential annexation area.

"It assures that all the property taxes they get today will be in continuance in the future, which is about $5,000 a year," said Ceres Senior Planner Tom Westbrook. "This agreement gives them everything they have today plus a little bit more. We have received nothing back in writing explaining why this doesn't meet their approval."

In addition the city has stated its intention to form a Capital Facilities District that would net Westport approximately $25,000 annually when the area is built out over an expected 20-year period.

Westbrook said nothing about the agreement changes an existing agreement between the city of Ceres and Westport made when the city annexed the former Procter & Gamble plant site.

"Hopefully we can get their issues in writing to address them before we go to LAFCO again," he added.

Last year city officials had tough words for Westport's board of directors. Vice Mayor Ken Lane accused Westport of trying "to get all you can, if you will, out of this."

Mayor Chris Vierra insisted that the city's offering was "fair and equitable" and noted Westport officials initially bought into the plan as fair.

If approved, the property would likely be developed when the economy recovers and could take an estimated 20 years or longer to complete. It's estimated that West Landing could result in the addition of 12,000 new residents in Ceres as well as beef up commercial, office and industrial space as far west to Ustick Road.

The master plan calls for :

• A housing mix of 293 acres, or 1,310 multi-family units and 2,325 single-family houses;

• 34 acres of regional commercial acres;

• 884,200 square feet of retail commercial;

• 383,910 square feet of office uses;

• 802,100 square feet of light industrial;

• 174 acres of county facilities that already exist at the corner of Crows Landing and Service roads.

• 47 acres of parkland;

• 16 acres for schools.

The annexation area is bounded by Whitmore Avenue to the north, Service Road to the south, the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to the east and Ustick Road on the west. The plan includes the annexation of the G3 plant - once the Proctor & Gamble plant - as well as the Stanislaus County government complex.