Lincoln City Manager Dave Hawker told his City Council Monday night that the final 75 letters have gone out to property owners in the Roads End area, telling them that they have 60 days to return a form to the city with their signature indicating that they are willing to be annexed into the city or be faced with having their water shut off, water provided by Lincoln City.
The decades long tug of war over whether Roads End should become an official part of Lincoln City appears to be reaching a final conclusion, assuming that Roads End residents don’t file suit; but that’s almost a dead-on certainty from talk among some of the more politically active residents of the area. Two Roads End residents, one from the Roads End Water District, strongly criticized the council for attempting annexation under such a threat.
A long line of city councils have been assured by Roads End residents that they would eventually annex into Lincoln City since they said they could not provide their own water – their old system long having since failed. But a number of current residents want no part of becoming a part of Lincoln City and the higher property taxes that would go with it. City officials say Roads Enders have enjoyed water at a rate that doesn’t cover all the costs of its delivery and free urban services that are basically gifted by Lincoln City taxpayers. City officials maintain that annexation is long over due and that it’s time to stop talking and start annexing.
The exact city ordinance that will justify the water shut off among those who don’t agree to annex was sent back for some refinement by the city council. The final version will return for council review and probable adoption at the next city council meeting.
LC City Council (top_
David Hawker, City Manager (#2)
Roads End Photos
By a unanimous vote of the Lincoln City City Council, they ordered City Manager David Hawker to send out letters to Roads End property owners that if they don’t agree to annex into the city, their water could be turned off. Hawker told the council that nearly enough signatures have been collected by the city from Roads End property owners to trigger the annexation but that the city needs a little more. Under state law, he says, the city needs a majority of the population, a majority of the land area and a majority of the assessed value of the Roads End area. Again, he says they’re close.
Prior to the vote, a number of Roads End residents chastised the council for even considering such a move. One resident called it an “unamerican power grab,” another labeled it “school yard bullying.”
Mayor Dick Anderson and Mr. Hawker reminded the council that the water contract with the Roads End Water District, which governs the water pipes that lead directly to Roads End homes, ran out in 2003 so there is no longer any contractual obligation to serve water to the area. Lincoln City resident Jim Hoover contended that the city council cannot shut off the water unless they are prepared to fork over $600,000 in forfeiture money to the federal government. Hoover claimed that federal aid to help build Roads End water improvements forbids water interruption. But Mr. Hawker and Mayor Anderson said a federal court ruling already handled that issue by allowing the city to shut off the water based on the expired contract for service.
Again, the city council vote was 6-0 to order Mr. Hawker to contact Roads End water users who haven’t yet signed a letter of acceptance (to be annexed into the city) be formally notified that if they don’t, they could lose their water. To sweeten the invitation to become city residents, Mr. Hawker said that the city will file all acceptance letters with the Circuit Court free – without the customary $100 filing fee.
Outside the meeting room, Roads End residents said they were not surprised by the council’s action. When asked what would happen if the city actually notifies someone that their water is going to be shut off at a certain date and time, opposition spokesman Chuck Jacobsen said “We’ll consider our legal options if and when that happens.” Mr. Jacobsen told NewsLincolnCounty.com that they are thoroughly investigating the possibility that they could re-activate a number of wells in the Roads End area and thereby “tell the city bye bye.” When asked what the costs might be to return to well water Mr. Jacobsen said “We’re looking into it.” The Lincoln City News Guard reported last week that the anti-annexation group has solicited donations to pay for work toward gaining water rights and water system operational permits from the state. Monday, Mayor Anderson said “I would like to caution residents of the Roads End area to investigate fully what they’re being asked to invest in, and to think it through; then ask themselves, is this thing going to work financially?”
The city contends that Roads End property owners, technically under county jurisdiction, have, for too long, received urban services from Lincoln City without having to pay their fair share of property taxes. Mr. Hawker lists those services as police, parks and recreation, tourism promotion, senior services and more. Mr. Hawker reminds everyone that the Lincoln County Commission has gone on record several times recommending that Roads End annex into Lincoln City because it really is an urban area that should have full urban services – something the county doesn’t have the money to provide.
Mr. Hawker reminded the council that the city has spent over $9 million dollars in “outside city limits” water projects in anticipation that Roads End would someday annex into the city. Mr. Hawker has indicated in previous city council meeting that “it’s highly unlikely that Lincoln City would have spent that kind of money if we knew that Roads End would never annex into the city.”
Meanwhile Roads End protestors say Roads End provides plenty of tax money to Lincoln City in terms of the economic benefits its residents provide through shopping, medical services, gas taxes and that they pay twice as much for water as regular Lincoln City customers. Mr. Hawker said recently that Roads End fees and taxes don’t begin to cover the full plate of urban services that residents enjoy complete with a major subsidy from regular Lincoln City taxpayers. Mr. Hawker said once annexed into the city, residents would begin paying for water at the “local” level. He did agree, however, that property taxes for most Roads End property owners would go up anywhere from $850 to $1,600 more a year.
Mr. Hawker said the 60-day notice to accept annexation “or else” will start going out in a couple of weeks. The council set no specific time line as to when water shut-offs might actually begin.
The Lincoln City City Council is expected tonight to give a “gentle nudge” to the residents of Roads End that the clock is ticking on what has been termed “their inevitible annexation” into the city.
The city council tonight is expected to give Roads End residents a reminder that they’ve got sixty days to comply with a request to sign a document indicating their support for annexation. Otherwise the city is not obligated to continue providing water to their property.
Many Roads End residents don’t want to annex in, which would, in fact, raise their property taxes. However, the city contends Roads End has long enjoyed what amounts to urban services, especially for police protection, at a much lower rate than everyone else who lives within the city limits. That, claims the city, is a direct subsidy to Roads End residents at the expense of Lincoln City taxpayers. Meanwhile, Lincoln County Commissioners, in whose jurisdiction Roads End residents live, have often admitted that the county Sheriff’s Office cannot afford to provide urban levels of police protection, which is needed in the Roads End area. The county commissioners recently voted their support for the city’s efforts to annex Roads End.
The issue dates back to the 1970’s when Roads End had grown to such an extent that individual well water was so low in quality as to be a threat to human health. In response, the state mandated that Roads End residents hook up to Lincoln City water. Roads End residents formed a local water authority to do just that with an agreement that Roads End would eventually annex into the city.
Thirty years later, Lincoln City is still waiting for Roads End to annex in, while Roads End has continued to grow in population with rising calls for police services they don’t pay for. Lincoln City also contends that Roads End continues to benefit from tourism related promotions (Roads End has a large percentage of vacation home rentals), visitors to the city library, and other services. Lincoln City also contends that although Roads End residents pay higher water bills than their counterparts in the city, Roads End revenues still don’t cover the total cost of providing water services outside the city.
Mayor Richard Anderson says there is no definite time line for annexation, only a reminder to Roads End residents that annexation is still on the horizon and that the city will be contacting those who have not agreed to annex in, that their water service could be shut off.
Meanwhile reports in the Lincoln City News Guard newspaper indicate that some Roads End residents are trying to rally their neighbors to pull out their checkbooks to support the construction of a Roads End water system, complete with numerous wells. Mayor Anderson said he would urge residents to fully explore what is going on and fully evaluate what their contribution is going for and if there is any likelihood of success.
The Lincoln City city council meets tonight to discuss the issue during their regular council meeting which begins at 6pm.
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.”