Lincoln City City Councilors, who will likely continue to find themselves in a delicate political situation with Roads End property owners just north of town, got another progress report this week on efforts to convince Roads Enders to agree to annex into the city. City Manager David Hawker reviewed the results of yet another survey mailed to property owners. And the survey results reveal definite concerns about water supply, water bills, police protection, street maintenance, protective zoning and regulations dealing with vacation rental.
The over-arching narrative of the situation is that Roads End residences are 75% owned by out-of-towners. And they, and the people they rent to, enjoy urban service levels while having to pay only county-level tax rates. For decades, Lincoln City has provided urban level water and sewer services, urban level police services when sheriff’s office patrols are out of position, urban level parks and recreation programs and other programs, again, for which, Roads End property owners are paying at an overall rate that is far below what Lincoln City residents are paying. City officials say even with water bills that are double the going rate, it doesn’t cover the cost of providing water. Even Lincoln County Commissioners admit that they cannot provide the level of services that Roads End property owners expect, and often get, thanks to the willingness of Lincoln City to step in and fill the gaps.
In the latest property owner survey report to the city council, City Manager David Hawker said of those responding, 81% said having a permanent water source is important. Believing that Roads End would eventually annex into Lincoln City, the city has spent millions of dollars providing water service to the Roads End area, the cost of which is not covered by water revenues from the Roads End area. The survey also revealed that 73% said police protection is important, maintained streets at 80%, protective zoning at 73% and having good regulations on vacation rentals at about 60%. To the extent that Lincoln City has used water service as a bargaining chip on the annexation issue, 81% said paying a “normal” water bill, instead of one twice as much as Lincoln City residents, is important.
Lincoln City officials have stated repeatedly that the city cannot go on indefinitely subsidizing urban level services for Roads End. And while nobody wants to lose a “good deal,” officials say there has to be an end to it out of fairness and concern for Lincoln City residents who are picking up the tab.
City budget records show that financial forecasts show Roads End as annexing into the city by 2014. They say city finances depend on it. So between now and then, negotiations will continue. What isn’t clear is the preferred method of annexation. But the city is adamant that the annexation occur by 2014. It can be compulsory or by voter approval. But that’s not to say the annexation would not be challenged in the courts, which is a whole other story, sort of under the guise of “We’ll cross that lawsuit when we get to it.”
To be continued….