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Oxnard Mulls Plan to Annex Harbor Water

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Oxnard has long been aggressive in annexing surrounding land. Now it wants a piece of the water as well.

The Oxnard City Council is set to consider Tuesday a plan to annex the water area of Channel Islands Harbor--an unincorporated part of the county--to the city.

Oxnard officials say their plan is intended to reduce confusion between the city and county over who should provide fire, police and other services at the county-owned and operated harbor. Oxnard provides services on the land, while the county provides services to the boats in the water.

“The city has primarily done all the (police and fire) response down there anyway,” said Richard J. Maggio, city community development director. “We have a fire station down there right near the water.”

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City leaders also argue that it is unnatural for the harbor to be a part of the county, since it is surrounded by the city of Oxnard.

But some county officials are charging that money is Oxnard’s true motive, since the county receives about $500,000 in property taxes from docks and boats in the harbor.

“I’m not terribly aware about confusion with police and fire in the water,” said Frank Anderson, Channel Islands Harbor manager for 25 years. “There is a specific agreement which has been in place since 1963. (Money) would be the only reason.”

County Supervisor John Flynn, whose district includes the harbor, said Oxnard officials should have contacted him about their plan. And he threatened to try to take back the land surrounding the harbor from the city as a countermeasure.

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“If they start this process, we’ll turn around and take the whole harbor back,” Flynn said. “If they’re going to do this, it’s going to happen over my dead body.”

Channel Islands Harbor covers more than 300 acres of land and water. The county spent $1 million to dig the harbor and has borrowed another $7 million to pay for improvements since it opened in 1965. It leases most of the surrounding land to developers, who have built restaurants, condominiums and about 3,600 boat slips.

The county makes about $2 million annually from leases and taxes at the harbor.

But the water area of the harbor is included in Oxnard’s sphere of influence as approved by the Ventura County Local Agency Formation Commission, a state agency that deals with jurisdictional matters, Maggio said.

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The annexation would have to be approved by LAFCO, Maggio said.

“Basically this is an item with LAFCO,” he said. “It wouldn’t be something that the county would have any say in.”

But Flynn, who is one of five members of LAFCO and its chairman, said Oxnard does not have the votes to execute a power play. A second county supervisor, Maria VanderKolk, is also on the commission. So are city council members from Thousand Oaks and Ventura and a fifth member who holds no elected office.

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“It takes three votes to do what they want to do,” Flynn said, “and I don’t think they’re there.”

If the Oxnard City Council decides to move forward on Tuesday, LAFCO will schedule a hearing on the matter. After a commission vote, the proposal would return to the City Council for a final decision, Maggio said. The entire procedure would take only three or four months, he said.

Flynn said Oxnard leaders should be grateful for the money the harbor has brought into the city. He added that the city has not done much to fulfill its responsibilities around the waterway.

“The city takes in about $500,00 to $600,000 in bed and board taxes from the harbor without putting that much into it,” Flynn said. “We had to take over the landscaping because they did such a sloppy job. The harbor was looking terrible.”

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When the harbor was annexed to the city in 1963, the water portion was left out due to concerns about city property taxes being levied on boats. The city and the county both thought it would have made the harbor less competitive with other small-boat marinas in Southern California, especially Marina Del Rey, Maggio said.

But under Proposition 13 passed in 1978, there is no difference in tax rates between the city and an unincorporated area, he said.

Oxnard council members Tom Holden and Bedford Pinkard would not comment Friday, saying they had not reviewed the proposal.

Mayor Manuel Lopez said that while Oxnard has talked about annexing the water before, he was surprised that the issue is set for council discussion on Tuesday.

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“When you are annexing or de-annexing, it seems to me that we should have had some discussion with the other party, in this instance the county and John Flynn,” Lopez said.


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