Annex vote ahead

HB Independent

The Huntington Beach City Council plans to vote July 19 on whether to apply to annex Sunset Beach, the unincorporated seaside community to its north.

At a study session Monday, the council opted to wait a month and a half before voting so the Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) could consider a pair of consultants' reports on the economic feasibility of annexing the area.

A city-commissioned report by Ralph Andersen & Associates declared that Huntington could make as much as $624,000 annually if it annexed Sunset, while a report from Willdan Financial Services, ordered by the Sunset Beach Community Assn., argued that the community had the financial resources to incorporate.

Joyce Crosthwaite, the executive officer of the county commission, said her office should have a review of the reports finished in two weeks. The intent, she said, was to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the reports and not to revise them.

"We're not going to be redoing all the numbers," Crosthwaite said.

City Administrator Fred Wilson said Huntington would try to have a staff report on Sunset available two weeks before the July 19 meeting.

Greg Griffin, president of Sunset's community association, said his group had filed an application earlier Monday with the county to incorporate as a city. He asked that the council wait until Aug. 31, 2011, to vote on annexing the property, because he believed Sunset would be done with its own application process then.

Griffin also noted that 52% of Sunset residents had signed a petition favoring incorporation.

"The people of Sunset Beach, given the alternative, want to become their own city," he said. "They want to be independent."

The association voted June 3 to apply for cityhood. Once a community applies to incorporate, LAFCO does its own financial analysis and votes on whether to approve the application. If the commission approves it, the matter goes to a general election ballot.

However, if Huntington decides to annex Sunset it merely has to send an application of its own to the commission. The commission does not have the power to deny the application, but can require conditions for approval.

Going through the application process with the county, Griffin said, would cost about $100,000, which would be lost if Huntington were to annex Sunset.

Councilman Don Hansen agreed about the time frame, saying Monday that Huntington should make its move soon rather than leave Sunset hanging.

"I don't want to see this community waste $100,000 if we decide we're going to annex them," he said.

Several residents spoke at the meeting for and against the annexation. Renee Ellerbroek, who lived in Sunset for years before moving to Huntington, called it unfair to annex a community against its will.

"It's one thing for Huntington Beach to annex a parcel that's undeveloped," she said. "It's another thing to annex a community that's 100 years old without a vote as to whether they want to be part of Huntington Beach or not."

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