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Assessment district approved

suzie harrison

An assessment district will be created in a North Laguna neighborhood

after it barely received the necessary 50% approval from residents.

The assessment will pay to put the the existing overhead utilities for

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electric, telephone and cable television in the High Drive, Virginia Way,

Ocean Vista Drive and Hillcrest Drive neighborhood underground, also know

as the High Drive District.

The city has been trying to create a special assessment district in

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the neighborhood since 1997 but lost a lawsuit in December 2002 to some

property owners who said the assessment was configured illegally.

Five property owners voted against the imposition of the assessment

and submitted their complaints in writing because they felt that the city

did not meet the necessary criteria.

According to state law, in order for a special assessment to be

levied, there needs to be substantial evidence, which demonstrates that

the properties subject to the assessment receive a special benefit over

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and above the public at large. Otherwise it is seen as a general

assessment.

The judge ruled that the formula used by the city to assess the

individual properties within the district was arbitrary and not in

proportion to the benefits derived by each property.

The engineers report proposed an assessment be imposed upon each

parcel in the district according to the three special benefits to each

parcel: safety, neighborhood aesthetics and modernization and view

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enhancement.

“If everyone is taxed the same for neighborhood aesthetics and for

safety then it is not special, it is a generality and it is not allowed

by proposition 218,” said Jay Glass plaintiff in last year’s lawsuit and

High Drive property owner.

The Orange County Superior Court judge stated, “The utilization of

this formula has resulted in a substantial injustice to many, and the

city abused its discretion in failing to properly take the issue of

proportional benefit to individual properties.”

The City Council’s amended proposal was voted on by residents in the

neighborhood. The results were tallied on Tuesday night with an extremely

close margin for approval.

Because of the close vote, a recount was done on Wednesday with the

same results announced Wednesday night at the City Council’s budget

meeting.

“It won’t keep everybody happy. You can’t. But we’re trying to bring

the inequities to a level the assessment district favors,” Frank said.


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