Council moving forward on annexation of Viera area, in spite of residents’ opposition
By James Ott
The 200 or so residents in unincorporated Northeast Antioch may still get absorbed into the city without being able to vote on the matter but Antioch City Council is still encouraging the county agency that handles annexations to reconsider.
But in the end if those people are annexed without representation, Antioch would also like to avoid being sued.
For years the City of Antioch and Contra Costa County have looked at bringing nearly 700 acres of land into the city because of obvious benefits to both parties. For the county, it will save money if the city takes over providing municipal services and potentially lives if they can have the city take over policing responsibilities, particularly in the area off of Viera Avenue, (what the county labels area 2b), because it is the only section that has a significant population. Policing issues in the area were famously brought to attention when the county-policed zone failed to notice Jaycee-Dugard being held and abused there because of a lack of police presence in the isolated region.
And according to a consultant for the City of Antioch Victor Camiglia, Antioch, “The annexation is definitely in the City’s best interest. It provides a significant amount of revenue both in the near term and the immediate near term once the GenOn power plant comes on line.”
In fact the city and the county both may still get their hands on a one million dollar bonus each courtesy of GenOn if they complete the annexation by a recently changed, and currently unspecified, date in the future.
Despite the potential financial windfall for Antioch, Camiglia and the city’s legal counsel are urging the city to be cautious in its move to annex Northeast Antioch because of a position taken by LAFCO this year to not allow the area’s population the ability to vote on their own annexation.
Under normal circumstances an unincorporated area with at least 12 registered voters, (2b has about 100), would have the ability to make a vote on whether or not they wanted to be annexed into a nearby city. A “no” vote among 50 percent or more of those voters would prevent the annexation from taking place.
The Local Agency Formation Commission, (LAFCO), however said that if Northeast Antioch were annexed without areas 2b and 2a, they would create an unincorporated “island” – in other words, it would become an area of land no larger than 150 acres that is mostly surrounded by a city. This creates more problems with policing and providing utilities to the area and so under state law LAFCO can annex the area without a vote.
The problem is that while legally Antioch, LAFCO, and the county can go ahead and annex the area without allowing its residents to vote on the matter, that doesn’t prevent lawsuits. And Antioch will worry even more about the risk of lawsuits in the event the annexation without representation is carried out after Camiglia reported that the State Attorney also agrees that the residents should be allowed a vote.
That’s why the council voted last Tuesday to ask LAFCO to remove the cities legal liability in such an event. LAFCO normally requires a city to sign an indemnity agreement that prevents LAFCO from being held responsible if there is a lawsuit after they approve an annexation.
So while the city and LAFCO agree that Northeast Antioch should be annexed,
Antioch City Council has long pushed for allowing the current residents to vote on the matter while LAFCO believes it isn’t legally necessary. So the City is asking LAFCO to waive their indemnity requirement.
If the annexation of Northeast Antioch does eventually take place Antioch will have to spend money to provide infrastructure to the area, but taxes from the region will more than make up for that said Camiglia.
All four city council members support the annexation but Councilmember Gary Agopian pointed out that Antioch initially just tried to annex the uninhabited areas of Northeast Antioch that just included the GenOn and PG&E power plants – it was LAFCO who forced Antioch to add the populated areas of 2a and 2b to avoid creating an “island.”
New Antioch Mayor Wade Harper also made a point to lend his support to finding a way to annex the area.
“I strongly support this,” he said. “This is going to mean so much to the economic development of the city of Antioch. We need to go and remove all of the obstacles and roadblocks.”
It’s also worth noting that Antioch surveyed the residents of the annexation area in 2007. About 60 percent of those residents responded – a full 75 percent of those said that they did not support being annexed.