You couldn’t quite set your watch to it, but you knew it was coming. And it has, finally. After the Lincoln City City Council formally decided to officially annex the Roads End area into the city December 10th, the Roads End Water District (which has no water or pipes to deliver it) filed an appeal to the state Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) based in Salem. The water board’s complaint was that the annexation process was flawed. Full details of the complaint will come out during a LUBA hearing within a few weeks.
During the many months of the public portion of the back-and-forth between the water board and the city council, the water board contended that Roads End residents were being illegally forced to sign documents agreeing to be annexed under threat of having their water turned off. The city provides Roads End with water after their own water system failed many years ago. The board has also complained that many who signed the documents have since changed their minds and have filed affidavits saying so with the city, to no avail. The city doesn’t honor them.
From the city’s perspective a Circuit Court judge has ruled that the city is under no obligation to serve water or any other urban service to an unincorporated part of the county, and that the city can turn off their water anytime it deems right and proper since there exists no contract for water service to Roads End. City officials have said many times that past Roads End Water Board members have promised that once the city provided Roads End with water, annexation would be forthcoming. It never happened.
City officials also say that water is not the only service Roads End property owners enjoy at the expense of city residents; there is emergency police response, library, community center, advertising and promotion for many vacation rental dwellings, use of city streets, parks and recreation programs. They point to the Lincoln County Commission, in whose jurisdiction Roads End residents live, strongly urging Roads End residents to annex into the city so they can get the depth of law enforcement coverage they truly need. Commissioners have repeatedly said that the county cannot afford to provide such services and that too frequently an urgent 9-1-1 call from a Roads End resident involves a deputy sheriff who must call for reinforcements from Lincoln City Police. “Our Sheriff’s Department is stretched pretty thin,” is a common lament from county officials.
As for the water board’s claim that rescinded resident signatures on the annexation papers should be honored, city officials have said only that the city doesn’t accept them.
LUBA officials say that the next step in the appeal is for both sides to submit information related to the dispute to LUBA staff. Then there will be oral arguments presented during a hearing. After that a decision will be made by LUBA sometime in early April.
If either side doesn’t like the outcome of that decision, they’ll have 21 days to file an appeal with the State Court of Appeals. They have their own timeline. If neither side likes the Court of Appeals ruling, they can appeal to the State Supreme Court. Although this sounds like years of litigation, it’s not. The process is quite rapid as required by law with the average appeal being processed all the way to the top, and ruled on in a matter of weeks.
Should the annexation be upheld, the city council has made it part of the annexation documents that Roads End water bills would be cut in half to reflect water bills city-wide and that property tax increases would be phased in over time rather than on the day the annexation becomes official.