Residents of Coronita have succeeded in keeping their enclave separate from adjacent Corona by submitting 795 valid signatures on petitions opposed to annexation.
Those signatures represent more than half of the unincorporated community's 1,407 voters, Corona City Clerk Diedre Lingenfelter said Monday, and therefore will head off a November vote on annexation.
City officials initiated the move last year--even though they thought Coronita residents would reject it--because a Riverside County commission wanted the often-debated question to go on the local ballot.
But Coronita residents voted with their pens instead, rejecting the Local Agency Formation Commission's concern that the community has become virtually surrounded by an expanding Corona.
The commission, charged with regulating the boundaries of cities and service districts, made the Coronita annexation attempt a condition of an adjacent 1,420-acre annexation that was supported by the city and approved by the county last November.
"We would be compromising our responsibility if we didn't do exactly what was done," said Mischelle Zimmerman, the commission's executive officer. "The law is very clear that we are prohibited from creating islands of unincorporated territory.
"And until a petition was circulated or a vote taken," she said, "there was some uncertainty" about where the majority of residents stood on the issue.
Coronita's overwhelming opposition should have been obvious to the commission and its staff, and the annexation proceedings should not have been required, Corona City Manager James Wheaton said.
"I think it's just too bad that poor staff work led to that kind of expenditure of time and of emotion . . . by the members of the Coronita community, all to no avail," Wheaton said.
Both Wheaton and Zimmerman agreed, however, that the annexation proposal was defeated because of citizens' fears that becoming part of the city would force changes in the community.
Had the residents accepted annexation, they would have enjoyed better police and fire protection, lower water rates and more attention from a locally elected government, Wheaton said. The city "would have gotten more money, but we would have turned around . . . and spent the revenue or perhaps even more" on services for Coronita.