FAIRFIELD — Fairfield on Monday won support from a countywide agency to add 1,044 acres to the city limits for its proposed train station community near Peabody and Vanden roads north of Travis Air Force Base.
It is the second of two annexations needed for a planned community to have up to 6,800 residences, a 50-acre Great Park, a 25-acre park with a lake, industries, businesses and a school. The city last year annexed 1,244 acres in the same area.
The Local Agency Formation Commission approved the latest annexation request unanimously. Fairfield Mayor Harry Price, county Supervisors John Vasquez and Skip Thomson and public members John Saunderson and Nancy Shopay voted in favor.
That’s not necessarily the end of the story. Property owners and registered voters in the proposed annexation area will have a chance to file written protests. That could conceivably overturn the annexation, depending on how many protests LAFCO receives.
The 1,400 acres includes multiple property owners and various rural businesses that developed over the years in the unincorporated county. Some of the business owners appeared at the LAFCO hearing to express concern. They wonder how existing businesses such as auto wrecking yards and storage businesses will fit in with the city’s plans to build homes.
Fairfield officials said the city wants businesses to remain as long as they don’t deter residential development on adjacent properties or pose a health or safety hazard to new development. When businesses must move, they might go to an industrial area the city has planned within the train station community.
Allen Hochstetler owns a recycling business in the annexation area. He didn’t oppose the annexation, but shared his concerns that his business could be hurt.
“I just need to see I have a path to get to that industrial area over there,” Hochstetler told commissioners.
Ed Fry, who owns land along Cement Hill Road in the annexation area, said the city might declare property “blighted” and take it by eminent domain.
Fairfield Community Development Director Erin Beavers said Fairfield can no longer declare property “blighted” through its redevelopment agency. California last year dissolved redevelopment agencies. He also said the city would use its remaining eminent domain powers with restraint.
“We would not condemn anything other than road right of way in that area,” Beavers said. “Guaranteed.”
Several property owners told the commission they favored the annexation.
“I’m a strong proponent of transit-orientated development,” property owner Mike Rice said. “I’m a strong proponent of this annexation.”
As with the previous train station community annexation, funding of the Vacaville Fire Protection District proved a point of contention.
The rural fire district will continue serving the annexation area as long as the land is unincorporated. Once the annexation is complete, the Fairfield Fire Department will serve the area and the fire protection district stands to lose more than $38,000 annually in property tax money to the city. The district’s annual budget is $940,000.
Fairfield agreed to pay the district an amount equal to the lost property tax money for 20 years. Vacaville Fire Protection District Chief Howard Wood wanted the money in perpetuity. LAFCO voted to have Fairfield make the payments for 25 years.
Local rural fire districts have long complained about losing property tax money to annexations. They contend that because county policies funnel most growth into cities, they don’t get a chance to recoup the lost property tax money.
Beavers, speaking in favor of the city’s 20-year proposal, said that the rural district will save money on miles traveled and vehicle use once it no longer serves the annexation area.
Wood said the annexation and subsequent residential development will mean more people living in the city. Those people will drive on rural roads, he said.
“They’ll go through the district to get to the city,” Wood said. “When they crash, who takes care of them? Us.”
Other rural fire district fire chiefs showed up in support of Wood. Cordelia Fire Protection District Chief Jay Huyssoon said the districts just want LAFCO to help out in these situations and expressed disappointment this didn’t seem to be happening.
“If you want to kill us, kill us now,” he said.
Price said the uncertainty involved with an agreement lasting for perpetuity is too great of a financial burden for any agency to accept.
Thomson said he wanted Fairfield to pay the Vacaville Fire Protection District for perpetuity, but didn’t think he could convince the rest of the commission. He then proposed the 25-year agreement.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.