FAIRFIELD — Fairfield on Monday won approval to add a growth frontier of about two square miles to its boundaries, its largest single annexation since Rancho Solano a quarter-century ago.
The Solano Local Agency Formation Commission by a 3-0 vote passed the Canon Station annexation, covering 1,244 acres located near Travis Air Force Base. All that remains to wrap up the matter is for the state Board of Equalization and other agencies to finish the paperwork.
Development won’t begin immediately. Anthony Russo of Canon Station LLC said that construction could start in 2015 or 2016, if the housing market recovers by then.
Among the next steps for Canon Station LLC is getting environmental permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies, Russo said. The Army Corps of Engineers doesn’t want to work with a project proponent until the proposed development area is annexed, he said.
“We need to start negotiating with them sooner rather than later,” Russo told the LAFCO board. “As I’m sure you’re aware, these (negotiations) take time.”
Canon Station is one of two annexations envisioned for Fairfield’s planned train station community. The entire community is to have up to 6,800 homes, parks, a train station, businesses and industry.
Most of the Canon Station land is vacant, basically a blank slate awaiting the city’s development plans. It is to someday have 3,100 homes, a 300-acre industrial area, a 50-acre park and 25-acre lake.
Fairfield last week filed its proposed, 1,040-acre “core area” annexation request with LAFCO for a hearing next year. This second part of the train station community is to have 3,700 homes, shops, a school and the train station. Unlike the Canon Station annexation, this land has existing, rural businesses along Cement Hill, Peabody and Vanden roads.
City project consultant Ron Rowland told the LAFCO board what the proposed community will be like. The train station is key. About 3,000 dwellings are to be located within a half-mile radius of the station that is to be built at Peabody and Vanden roads.
“This is a transit-orientated development, a little denser than is typical in this part of Solano,” Rowland said.
The project will need $237 million in transportation improvements, Rowland said. These improvements include making Peabody Road six lanes south of Vanden Road to Air Base Parkway and four lanes north of Vanden Road to Vacaville, widening Vanden Road to four lanes and building New Canon Road to provide better access to the Travis Air Force Base north gate.
One point of contention arose at the LAFCO meeting. The Vacaville Fire Protection District provides fire service to the rural Canon Station area, but will hand off service to the Fairfield Fire Department once the annexation paperwork is complete.
The fire district stands to lose property tax money, $4,243 annually for the Canon Station annexation and an additional $30,329 for the proposed “core” annexation, for a total of a total of $34,572 annually.
“We cannot afford to lose any additional tax base and continue to provide the services to our residents and the public who travel through the (fire district) area,” district Chief Howard Wood wrote to LAFCO.
This issue goes beyond the Canon Station annexation. Local rural fire districts for years have said that they lose property tax money when cities annex land, even though their fixed expenses remain. They cannot benefit from rural development to get more revenue because Solano County has a policy that virtually all development should take place within the boundaries of a city.
The Vacaville Fire Protection District wanted Fairfield to pay for the annual lost tax money on a permanent basis. Fairfield offered to do so for 20 years, but not forever. The LAFCO board sided with the city.
“I think at some point things have to sunset,” LAFCO member and Dixon Mayor Jack Batchelor said.
LAFCO member John Saunderson asked why this issue hadn’t been settled before the Canon Station annexation request came to LAFCO. He said he didn’t favor moving forward with the annexation until the issue got worked out.
Batchelor said that Fairfield and the fire district had met and were at impasse, leaving LAFCO to decide the matter.
“I don’t want to have 20-years-versus-perpetuity holding up what I think is a valuable project,” Batchelor said.
Past Fairfield annexations of this size have often gotten enmeshed in local growth wars. Proposed growth near Travis Air Force Base in particular proved touchy during the 1990s. Some community members at that time expressed fear that building close to the base would make the base vulnerable to closure.
Such issues didn’t arise this time. The growth wars of the 1990s led Fairfield voters in 2002 to pass Measure L, which limits city growth near the base and other areas through 2020. Canon Station is within these growth boundaries.
LAFCO, which must approve all annexation, has members from the county, its cities and the public. Voting “yes” on Monday were Saunderson, Batchelor and Fairfield Mayor Harry Price.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.
Fairfield’s bigger annexation since 1980:
Correction: This version corrects references to the final vote.