City officials are considering plans to expand their borders in all directions--including a small chunk of land now in North Orange County--in a spate of annexation proposals aimed at keeping control of nearby development in local hands.
The annexation proposals, particularly two on the city’s western flank facing Orange County, are being generated by developers who believe their projects would fare better under city control than they would in unincorporated areas managed by Riverside County.
Corona city officials said the developers are seeking annexations because the city’s zoning laws may allow higher-density construction and because Corona can provide superior services in such areas as police and fire protection.
Corona City Manager Bill Garrett said city officials have been supportive of the annexations because it allows them to make decisions about surrounding developments and to benefit from the tax revenue the projects would generate.
Several annexations have already been approved by the City Council and the county’s Local Agency Formation Commission. Others, including those closest to Orange County, are still pending.
The annexations have fueled a debate with slow-growth activists concerned about the impact of more development. Traffic is overwhelming Corona, some residents argue, and local services are unable to keep pace with the galloping demand for them.
“Corona is already overbuilt,” said Adrienne F. Potter, the co-founder of Citizens Acting for Responsible Growth and Order, a slow-growth group in Corona. “There comes a point when you have to say, ‘This much growth is not responsible.’ ”
City officials respond that the annexations have been initiated by residents or developers, not the city government, and that they have provided a way to broaden the city’s tax base. Annexations are being considered in El Cerrito, Eagle Valley and Bedford Canyon.
The latest flash point in Corona’s expansion involves a steep, hilly property sandwiched between the Green River Golf Course and Cleveland National Forest. That strip is all that separates Orange County from Corona and it is the proposed location of a commercial and residential development by Jacinth Development Inc. of Dallas.
The 880-acre property between Corona and the Orange County line includes a 125-acre section that crosses the county line. Company officials are hoping that the supervisors in both Riverside and Orange counties will agree to move their boundary so the entire project is in Riverside County, said Bruce Young, a spokesman for the project and a former state assemblyman. The Orange County section must become a part of Riverside County first to make its annexation to Corona possible.
The same property was proposed for a swap between the two counties in 1988. Federal drug agents had seized the 213-acre Rancho del Rio in Riverside County, right on its border with Orange County, and given title to it to Orange County. Riverside County agreed to swap that land for the 125-acre section in Orange County, but a dispute between Riverside County officials and the previous owner of the Jacinth land prevented that 125-acre parcel from being deeded to Riverside County. With a new owner--Jacinth--the dispute has been resolved.
Citizens Acting for Responsible Growth and Order was formed in the newly built community of Sierra del Oro after several of the city’s annexations. It has also expressed concern about the Jacinth proposal and another project in the same area.
The other developer, the Hill-Williams Development Corp., is proposing that the city annex a 165-acre area north and east of the Jacinth parcel. If approved, the Hill-Williams land would become the Corona Gateway Center, a commercial and residential development at the Riverside Freeway and east of the Green River Road overpass.
“This is what you see when you come into Corona,” said Mitchell Rosen, the project manager for Hill-Williams.
Both developers are scheduled to present their plans to annex to Corona in the coming months. The companies have talked informally with city officials about their development plans, but they are still preparing a formal presentation to the council.
As the negotiations go forward, much of the discussion is likely to focus on a two-lane bridge at Green River Road, on the periphery of the proposed annexations. If the developments are approved, the bridge would become the main on-ramp to the Riverside Freeway in that area.
Traffic already snarls the bridge in the morning as commuters use it to get to the freeway, and Citizens Acting for Responsible Growth and Order has been pressing city and county officials to widen the crossing.
“Hopefully, with this development, that’s one of the things we will be working with the city about,” said Young, who has been working on the project on behalf of Nabih Nasir, Jacinth’s president.
But Young said Jacinth is planning to be very careful about its impact on traffic, in addition to creating neighborhoods that do not cause severe alterations to the terrain. He said the new neighborhoods would be different from Sierra del Oro, where traffic tie-ups have sparked opposition.
City officials also say that the proposed annexation could strengthen Corona’s opposition to the proposed construction of an Orange County jail in nearby Gypsum Canyon, although they stressed that they are not initiating the annexation process.
“It would mean that the jail would not only be in our back yard but across the fence,” said Corona City Manager Garrett.
The City Council has opposed the Gypsum Canyon site, arguing that the Corona area already has several correctional institutions, including facilities in Norco, Chino and Frontera.