Lincoln City Planning Commission and Roads End neighborhood
The Lincoln City Planning Commission voted unanimously Wednesday night to ask the city council to annex the Roads End area to capture more revenue to pay for urban services rendered to Roads End residents. It’s claimed that Roads End property owners do not pay a fair share of taxes in supporting them. Those services include back-up police services, connecting roads, water, sewer, tourism promotion, community center, parks and other urban amenities.
However, in getting to that recommendation, planning commissioners had to wade through two public hearings during which many objections were raised challenging the city’s right to annex the area’s 246 acres and $241 million dollars in taxable property. A number of Roads End residents complained that they already pay enough taxes and that Lincoln City wastes taxpayers’ money by having a bloated employee roster. Others complained that they were being blackmailed into agreeing to be annexed since the city said, if they don’t agree to be annexed, the city will turn off their water thereby making their homes uninhabitable. Some residents demanded that the issue be put to a public vote among Lincoln City and Roads End residents.
In earlier discussions, city officials have outlined decades of interaction between Roads End and the city that included how to save Roads End when their water supply was over extended and their septic tanks started to fail. Over the years, the city extended its sewer and water lines into the Roads End area, investing over $9 million recently to keep the water flowing. City officials said they did so under the expectation that Roads End would eventually annex into the city. They added that the last contract for water service by Lincoln City to Roads End expired in 2003. So, under the law, the city is no longer obligated to serve the Roads End area. That conclusion has been backed up by court rulings.
City officials have often noted that the Roads End area doesn’t pay its fair share of local taxes; also that the Roads End area lies within what is called the Lincoln City Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). Under state law, residents and any businesses, that are located within such UGB’s, are forecasted to be eventually annexed into an adjacent city. City officials say state law requires such an orderly process for growth to be controlled and accommodated as well to provide the tax revenues to support it. City officials also claim that, for decades, Lincoln City residents have been burdened with having to subsidize urban services to Roads End residents who don’t pay city property taxes.
City officials contend they have sufficient property owner signatures to trigger the annexation.
Once the annexation is complete, city staff said Roads End streets, including Logan Road, will be maintained by city road crews. Currently only Logan Road is maintained, and that’s by the county. Police patrol services will be 24/7 which the county sheriff does not provide. Water and sewer bills would drop, garbage and trash pick-up fees would drop slightly and non-resident surcharge fees for the community center and other city facilities would be reduced. However, all that would not completely offset the increase in property taxes if Roads End is annexed into the city.
Following Tuesday and Wednesday night’s public hearings, the planning commission unanimously voted to recommend to the city council that the council consider annexing Roads End into the city. The city council will hold two public hearings of its own on November 19th and 20th starting at 6pm at Lincoln City City Hall. After that, the council decides whether to proceed with annexing Roads End.
A group of Roads End residents have vowed to go to court in an effort to block the annexation if the city goes through with it. They contend their constitutional rights of due process and equal protection would be violated if they were brought into the city against their will.
Again, city officials claim they have more than enough Roads End property owner signatures to initiate the annexation.
Lincoln City officials who at first declined to release the list of Roads End property owners agreeing to be annexed into the city have now released those addresses as revealed in meeting materials for the Lincoln City Planning Commission’s meeting tonight, 6pm at city hall.
The list was the subject of a bureaucratic tete-a-tet between the city and the Roads End Water District (REWD) board which has neither water assets nor pipes in the ground to provide water service to anyone. But the board has strenuously opposed the Roads End annexation claiming REWD can provide those services if the city would merely contract with them to do it. Board members and others in the Roads End area contend they pay enough taxes to the county and higher than normal water and sewer rates to the city as it is, without having to pay even more in property taxes if annexed into the city.
City officials contend that Roads End property owners have enjoyed urban services from next door Lincoln City for decades without paying their share of the costs. They also point out that Roads End lies within Lincoln City’s Urban Services Area which, under state law, presumes eventual annexation into the city. City officials say they’ve been installing expensive sewer and water piping and pumps since the mid-70s on a promise of eventual annexation. They say they can no longer justify to Lincoln City residents, who pay full freight for their urban services (police, roads, tourism promotion, community center, library, etc), while Roads End property owners do not.
Lincoln City officials say they now have more than a majority of Roads End property owner signatures to officially begin the annexation process. Tonight’s city planning commission meeting legally initiates that process.
The Roads End Water District board vows a court fight to stop it.
Lincoln City City Attorney Joan Kelsey says the city will turn over copies of signed documents from Roads End property owners agreeing to be annexed into the city. The request for copies of those documents has been made by a Lincoln City property owner. But he won’t be getting them right away. In a letter to the attorney for the Roads End Water District directors, Kelsey said the request will have to stand in line behind other public records requests, one of them being very time consuming.
Kelsey had earlier indicated that the records would not be turned over to the water district, which is vigorously fighting the city’s annexation, since the request had come from the water district itself. Kelsey claims that “State law allows copies of public documents to be provided only to “persons,” not to government entities who are not, under the law, persons.” Kelsey added that while a second request for the documents was submitted by civic activist Jim Hoover (who strongly opposes the annexation), she recommended that request be turned down as well, since “Mr. Hoover represented himself as requesting the records in association with the water district.”
Mr. Hoover later denied that contention claiming he was requesting the records solely on the basis of him being a Lincoln City property owner.
Going on at the same time were written correspondence between Lincoln City and Roads End Water District attorney Jack Orchard. Those back-and-forth letters suggested that if Lincoln City could get copies of certain records from the Roads End Water District, then Lincoln City would consider turning over copies of the records requested by the district. However, water district president Chuck Jacobsen wrote to the city, “With no full time staff and limited meeting time of board members, it will take a while to complete the review. We will respond with a summary and estimate of costs as soon as we can.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Hoover claimed that the public records laws of Oregon were being disobeyed, filed a complaint with Lincoln County District Attorney Rob Bovett, demanding that Bovett order Lincoln City to turn over the records he requested. Mr. Hoover said in his letter to Bovett that he’s not affiliated with the water district, owns no land in Roads End, and that his request is that of an individual who owns property in Lincoln City. Mr. Hoover went on to claim that all he wants to do is to have the opportunity to acquire the records and then talk about the issue with his fellow citizens and property owners.
District Attorney Rob Bovett notified the city that he had received the complaint and requested relevant information from the city in order for him to make a ruling on whether the records were being illegally withheld. City Attorney Joan Kelsey responded to Bovett’s letter saying that the city was waiting to hear back from the water district’s attorney as to whether the city’s request of records from the water district were likely to be forthcoming. She said it appeared that it would be a while before the water district would respond based on the letter she had received from the president of the board. She added that the district’s attorney had not replied to her letter for a response. She added that she was hoping that the requests could be honored all the way around without anyone having to pay $1,680 in copying costs which covers only Lincoln City’s part of it.
Kelsey further responded to Bovett’s letter by saying that Mr. Hoover’s request for records will be honored but that it may take a while for him to receive them. She said there are over 5,000 pages of documentation dealing with the signed consent forms returned to the city by Roads End property owners who agreed to be annexed. Under state law, one method of initiating annexation is for the city to receive permission to be annexed by “a triple majority;” a majority of the population, a majority of the assessed valuation of properties owned, and a majority of the land mass to be annexed.
Bovett told News Lincoln County that since the city has now agreed to release the documents to Mr. Hoover, he no longer has any cause to pursue the case.
So, as it stands, the water district says it may take a while to provide the records requested by Lincoln City, and Lincoln City’s position is the same, adding that there are substantial public records requests ahead of the water district having nothing to do with the Roads End situation, and that staff is quite busy with that as well as their normal duties at city hall.
Meanwhile the city has launched procedures to annex the Roads End area, claiming they have received sufficient property owner consent forms to achieve the “triple majority” requirement for annexation. Contained in those annexation consent forms was a statement by the city that if they didn’t sign the agreement, the city would be in a position to turn off their water.
The battle goes back many years to a time when the Roads End Water District was ordered by the courts to hook up to city water and sewer due to failing groundwater and contamination of soils from septic tanks. Water and sewer systems were installed by Lincoln City on a promise that the area would eventually annex into the city since water and sewer bills would never cover the complete cost of the systems.
It’s been well over twenty years and yet Roads End residents still don’t want to become part of the city. Residents complain their property taxes would rise and they fear Lincoln City would allow hotels to occupy stretches of the bluff line overlooking the ocean. But Lincoln City officials contend the area still gets urban services, even back up police protection when no sheriff’s deputies are in the area. City officials also contend that Roads End, which is made up of many vacation rentals, benefits from the city’s costly tourism and special events promotion budget, community center, pool, parks, streets, and other urban advantages while not contributing significantly to their costs.
Under state law, areas like Roads End that lie within the city’s Urban Services Boundary, are expected to eventually annex into the city. City officials say that Roads End property owners have long been subsidized by Lincoln City taxpayers in offering urban services to Roads End without Roads End property owners having to cover the cost for them. Even Lincoln County Commissioners recently sent a letter to Lincoln City strongly supporting the annexation as long over due and that the county is not financially capable of providing sewer and water services, urban scale law enforcement and many other city-grade services to the Roads End area.
Lincoln City City Councilors heard again Monday night from a spokesman for a group of Roads End residents who refuse to be annexed into Lincoln City. Undaunted, Lincoln City is in the process of doing just that.
Chuck Jacobson said his Roads End group has hired a lawyer in an effort to stop the annexation process. Jacobson declared that despite the fact a formal contract for water service to Roads End ran out years ago, Lincoln City is still contractually bound to continue to provide water. And with that he delivered to Clerk Recorder Cathy Steere 100 signatures from Roads End residents who have declared they are withdrawing their permission to be annexed.
City Attorney Joan Kelsey, noting the alleged change of heart by one hundred residents asked, “These people don’t mind that their water will be shut off?” (which the city has threatened to do if the annexation process stalls). Jacobson shot back, “Their water won’t be shut off because they have a contract with the city to provide them water.” Kelsey asked, “What Contract?” Jacobson said, “The one the city has always had with the Roads End area.” Kelsey replied, “Could you be more specific?” Jacobson repeated his contention that the old contract is still in effect.
City officials say, in fact, there is no longer a contract for water service between Roads End and the city, claiming it expired some time ago. In the meantime, the city has spent millions of dollars on water lines, tanks and pumps that serve the Roads End area, paid for largely by the residents of Lincoln City who have been told for years that Roads End would eventually become part of the city and therewith contribute to the city’s tax base.
Lincoln City Mayor Dick Anderson said there was nothing new in Monday night’s discussions. He said the city is fully expecting to annex Roads End in the near future. He said that under state law there are three ways that residents can request annexation and begin receiving city services. And, there is one way that a city can initiate the annexation. Anderson said they’re still expecting to receive enough signatures from Roads End property owners to accomplish the annexation in the near future.
As a foot note, any area within a city’s urban growth boundary is expected, under state law, to eventually become part of that city. Roads End lies directly north, and up against the north Lincoln City city limits. Therefore Roads End is included in the city’s urban growth boundary. State land use laws are very clear that urban areas belong inside cities, and that non-urban areas are preserved primarily for farming and ranching.
Jacobson and others contend that their property taxes would rise substantially if they annexed in. They also claim that they pay enough taxes as it is without coughing up more. But city officials claim they have not paid their fair share of taxes to Lincoln City which has provided Roads End vacation rental owners with free advertising through regional tourist promotions, access to the city library, recreation programs and parks, police protection (Sheriff’s coverage is sparse) as well as other urban conveniences. And that it’s time for Roads End property owners to pay for what they’re getting.
At a recent city budget hearing it was noted that the city will be setting aside funds to pay for a potential court battle with the Roads End group who they expect may not go down without a fight.
A group of Roads End residents put the Lincoln City City Council on notice Monday, that if they don’t agree to be annexed into the city, and the city turns off their water, they’ll sue the city officially as a unit of government and each governmental employee connected with the action.
The move is to clarify that a number of Roads End residents do not want to become legally a part of Lincoln City, nor pay higher property taxes for the privilege. City Councilors contend that Roads End is already getting the benefits of city services without paying for them.
City officials say they expect a court fight over the annexation no matter what.
A group of Roads End neighbors, who seem intent at trying everything under the sun to prevent Lincoln City from annexing them, have struck out again at trying to create their own water system. Under state use planning law, residents who live within a city’s urban growth boundary are presumed to be annexed eventually. So when Roads End came calling at the county courthouse to drill new water wells the county told them no, citing state land use law that re-affirms the notion that Roads End is already an urban area and therefore should be annexed into Lincoln City.
Reporter Patrick Alexander has the skinny on this latest development in the News-Guard. Click here.