Despite continued “spirited” opposition from a few in the audience, Lincoln City City Council moves ahead on annexing Roads End
Despite another tongue lashing by another member of the Roads End Water District Board (REWD), the Lincoln City City Council, none the less, proceeded to vote unanimously Monday night to annex Roads End into the city of Lincoln City. The vote means Roads End will become the newest addition to Lincoln City effective July 1st. That’s when property taxes go up to reflect becoming a part of Lincoln City – that is – if no one goes to court to try to stop the marriage. A group of REWD Board members and angry Roads End homeowners are expected to take legal action to interrupt the process. The city has budgeted at least fifty thousand dollars for their legal fees to fight back.
The story started in the mid-1970s when the Roads End area ran out of water. The state stepped in and brokered a deal to have Lincoln City extend their municipal water lines outside their city limits north into Roads End. With that arrangement Roads End property owners made a commitment to annex into the city no later than 2003. But 2003 came and went and Roads End didn’t annex. What’s more there arose an anti-annexation chorus that also demanded that Lincoln City continue to serve them water.
At that point the 2004 city council asked a Circuit Court judge to rule on whether the city’s now-expired water contract with the Roads End Water District still meant the city had to provide water to Roads End. The judge ruled, “No contract, no water.”
More years came and went until recent pressure by the past two city councils initiated the annexation process themselves. They reasoned that Roads End property owners enjoy FREE backup emergency services from Lincoln City Police, SUBSIDIZED access to the Lincoln City Community Center, FREE benefits from tourism advertising throughout the state which benefits owners of vacation rentals, SUBSIDIZED water service and a number of other “urban level services” that Lincoln City taxpayers were shouldering on their own.
Many Roads End neighbors disagreed strongly saying that their higher water and sewer rates to the city substantially pays for their fair share of the cost of services.
However, Lincoln City appears to have state land use law on their side which notes that Roads End lies inside Lincoln City’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). State land use law dictates that any community inside a UGB means that the area outside the city will eventually annex in. It’s literally not a question of “if” but when.
REWD Board members have fought the annexation vigorously for months, declaring that the REWD is a duly created and elected government entity and that they have a right to contract with the city for water. The city council has repeatedly told them no. An REWD Board member Monday night accused the city council of being unfair and biased in their assessment of Roads End’s requirement to annex. The member said consent-to-annex signatures gathered by the city council were a product of coercion, if not extortion, since to fail to sign meant the homeowners’ water would be turned off. The council has reminded others that the aforementioned judge’s ruling in 2004 gave the city the green light to do just that if the contract for water service expires.
Still the board member pushed on, claiming that over one hundred letters-of-consent revocations were now on file with the city, meaning the city no longer has enough “valid” signatures to force the annexation. The city contends the revocations have no bearing on the matter.
With the council’s decision to annex Roads End, the city is expected to notify the Lincoln County Assessor’s office of the change in the status of Roads End and to begin assessing all those in the designated Roads End area as city taxpayers. And taxes will go up depending on the value of the property involved.
Under the plan, city property taxes will be gradually phased in over the next three fiscal years: 70% of the full rate effective July 1, 2013, 85% of full rate effective July 1, 2014, and 100% of the full rate effective July 1, 2015, this in an effort to soften the financial hit property owners will experience. Roads End sewer and water rates will be cut in half effective July 1, 2013. Those owning vacation rentals must obtain a business license from the city by the end of 2013 and room taxes on them must be collected, at the city rate, starting January 1, 2014.
Those who continue to oppose the annexation can take their grievance to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) in Salem and claim the process of annexation was not properly followed. But if they don’t get what they want, their next stop would be at the State Court of Appeals if that court would agree to review it. If the opponents get turned down there, they can petition the State Supreme Court to see if they will review it and make a ruling. Or they might just file a lawsuit in an attempt to get an injunction against the city thereby temporarily stopping the annexation process until it’s properly dissected by the courts as to whether those revoked signatures were legally revoked. However, state lawmakers created the LUBA – Court of Appeals – Supreme Court appeal process to keep land use challenges out of the mainstream courts in order to steamline the process.
Just before the vote, City Councilor Chester Noreikis and other city councilors said they regretted the hard feelings including down right anger expressed by Roads End residents but that the council has a duty to Lincoln City taxpayers. Noreikis said while many current Roads End property owners feel the annexation came out of the blue, it has, in fact, been developing for years in an effort to get Roads End property owners to pay their fair share of urban services. Noreikis said when the REWD allowed the water contract to expire in 2003, the district did not secure a water supply of their own. They simply let Lincoln City continue to serve them water. Even today, the REWD has no water supply nor a distribution system to deliver it. Noreikis continued, “On the other hand previous city councils did not property deal with the issue by not making the tough decision. So here we are today.” Councilman Roger Sprague said he remembers well the frightful situation Roads End was in when their water system was failing. Sprague said “I can tell you that in 1980 there was no question in anyone’s mind that annexation into Lincoln City would occur no later than 2003, when the water contract ended.” Mayor Dick Anderson lamented that while most Roads End residents have been cordial in their opposition some have been strident and angry, seemingly unwilling or unable to see the underlying issues. “A blind spot, if you will,” he added.
As Yogi Berra is so often quoted…”It’s not over ’til it’s over.” In this case, we’re probably not even close.