Annexation of Scotia
To Rio Dell California
September 15th LAFCo meeting packet regarding Scotia Community Services District - Staff recommends the approval of the Scotia CSD plan once again
9.15.10 LAFCo votes 6-1 to approve the Scotia Community Services District.
After years of uncertainty, the future of Scotia finally has some direction and they will remain independent rather than being annexed by Rio Dell. There was never an actual application for the annexation but the city staff and council worked hard to advance the idea. We have a lot of media from the almost 4 hour meeting so it will take a little while to be ready. I was actually expecting them to table the vote until the next meeting as they have done in the past but 2nd District Supervisor Clif Clendenen moved to approve the community services district plan and 5th District Supervisor Jill Duffy seconded. The only dissenting vote was LAFCo Chairman Marty McClelland who stated his objection to the $5 million dollar bond proposed by the CSD. I have been amazed that Rio Dell has been given equal consideration by LAFCo despite never having submitted an application. Frankly, we are very happy for the residents of Scotia as they will determine their own future rather than disappear into Rio Dell. One of the main arguments by the city was that they could administer Scotia as well as they do Rio Dell. That was our greatest fear.
5.26.10 Planning Commission packet - the commission voted unanimously to recommend passage of an expansion to the city's sphere of influence to include Scotia. If passed by the council on June 8th, it will be presented to LAFCo as evidence of the city's intentions to annex since the application will not be ready in time for the June 23rd meeting. LAFCo has already delayed the vote on the proposed community service district a month in anticipation of an application by the city. It is unknown when the application will be ready or how long LAFCo will be willing to delay their vote.
5.11.10 The Scotia annexation meeting at Monument Middle School this evening was well attended with people from both communities. It was presented by the Rio Dell City Council, Interim City Manager Jim Stretch and all of the department heads for the city along with consultants from Planwest and Winzler & Kelly. Stretch presented information regarding the anticipated Rio Dell annexation proposal and various documents that have been posted previously. The floor was then opened to questions by the audience and there were many comments presented. The video will be posted as soon as possible, the editor (Steve) is working on it currently. There were numerous questions about the annexation proposal including what is the benefit to the citizens of both communities, what is the LAFCo process, what are some of the costs, etc. The short answer to the primary question regarding cost/benefit is that we won't know until LAFCo decides against a community services district and the process of annexation is underway formally. At that point however it may be too late to stop it if the numbers don't add up, that is another unknown element. There were two speakers that spoke in favor of the annexation with the other approximately 12 or so speaking against it for various reasons.
Whether you are in favor of the annexation or not, you need to participate in the process. If the people in Scotia are not in favor of the annexation, they need to write letters of protest to LAFCo prior to their next vote on the matter in June. If they receive at least 51% protest letters from the residents of Scotia then they will have to schedule a vote of the Scotia community. It gets a little tricky about the one actual property owner thing but the LAFCo board should certainly take into consideration the wishes of the majority of folks in the area to be annexed. There is a protest petition in Scotia that some folks were talking about after the close of the meeting. The residents of Rio Dell do not get a vote on annexation as we have a representative city council whereas Scotia doesn't. It is another stark reminder of the importance of participating in the local government and city activities. The council members reminded people that they want to hear from them regarding this (and other) issues; calls or emails to the council members are encouraged. It is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in their local, state and federal government. Stay tuned for the video...
|Rio Dell Municipal Service Review|
|8.27.10 Rio Dell flyer regarding Scotia annexation benefits|
|7.21.10 LAFCo Commissioner's Packet (includes staff report re. Scotia CSD). Staff recommendations support the approval of the CSD over the possibility of annexing to Rio Dell.|
This meeting was before LAFCo.
To get some history on the Annexation, take a look at the 10.3.06 council meeting and the notes written at that time.
Letter to the Times Standard regarding Scotia annexation
4.21.10 A well attended LAFCo study session at the Winema Theatre in Scotia was held today with presentations by the Town of Scotia LLC and the City of Rio Dell regarding annexation versus community services district. The presentation material is posted below; the video will be put up as soon as possible. Rio Dell has reportedly spent $50,000 on annexation studies this time around, but there is no formal proposal for annexation as of yet. Rio Dell's annexation proposal is anticipated to be submitted at the June 23rd, 2010 LAFCo meeting. The May 19th LAFCo meeting that was supposed to address the CSD has been postponed to late June based on the anticipation of an annexation proposal by Rio Dell. The City has scheduled a May 11th meeting at 6:30pm to address the annexation issue. Much more to come...
4.16.10 Here is the Town of Scotia flyer regarding community services district versus annexation referred to by Interim City Manager Jim Stretch in the last city council meeting. There is a LAFCo study session regarding the issue on Wednesday 4/21 at 1:30pm in the Winema Theatre, Scotia. The hostile takeover of Scotia is presenting an interesting fight between the two towns that have shared a history since the beginning.
2.16.10 Annexation plans have begun again. Rio Dell has appealed to LAFCO to annex Scotia despite the Town of Scotia's resistance. The City issued a letter to Scotia recently regarding annexation and it is pretty clear by the response that they are not in favor of it. LAFCO will have to decide between Scotia's plan for a community services district versus the City of Rio Dell's proposal for annexation. The issue of the previously estimated $30-$35 million dollars of infrastructure improvements that are needed in Scotia is left up in the air but would become the liability of the ratepayers if annexed. The letter to Scotia and the council report on the annexation can be read by scrolling down on the agenda packet.
11.12.08 Town of Scotia ordered to monitor for E-Coli or face federal fines of up to $32,500 a day10 California rural public water systems ordered to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act requirements
Read the press release here
Public Comment ends September 4th!!!
Note we did not recieve this document until August 29th after requesting a second time. Our original request can be heard on the 8.19.08 Meeting Video.
Thanks to Nancy Fleming for providing it.3.12.07 Stay tuned for more on the Annexation. Palco will come thru Chapter 11. And then we will be close to where we were before they filed. Be sure to check out the Bankruptcy 101 video to see how it all works. Will Chapter 7 be next? Time will tell. More to come :-)
1.23.07 Another Annexation Study Session-Meeting Notes included
1.21.07 Palco is now Bankrupt. We will see how this effects the process. Steve :-) Here are the latest reports:
10.25.06 Rio Dell General Plan Fall 06.pdf about 2.7 Megs
Notice of public meeting regarding the annexation. Wed. Sept. 6th 6:30pm
Annexation business at the
October 16th 2006 5:30pm
1 hour and 16 minutes
10.10.06 Fiscal Analysis Meeting at Rio Dell City Hall Audio
Plus Meeting Notes Updated 10.15.06
|7.26.06 Publics Question and Answer Session Rio Dell Volunteer Fire Department|
5.30.06 Rio Dell City Council Chambers
The City of Rio Dell held its' first public meeting surrounding the proposed annexation of Scotia. This was a joint meeting between the City Council and the Planning Commission as well as a number of representatives from various departments, engineering firms and Palco. The attendance by community members was roughly 25 but this was more than the Council had planned on as chairs were in very short supply. Council Member Julie Woodall did her best to accommodate the new arrivals by hunting down chairs for them. Future meetings will need to be held in a larger facility as more and more people begin to take an interest in this very important topic.
There was a handout available titled "Administrative Review Committee Staff Report" which summarizes the process that the annexation application review would follow. This is most likely still available to citizens if you contact City Hall. It states that there will be monthly public workshops on the annexation but the next meeting date has not yet been announced. We will post the meeting date and time as soon as it is known.
The meeting began with the various representatives introducing themselves around the table and included people from SHN, Planwest, public works, fire department, Chris Manson from Palco, the planning commission and the full Council. SHN spoke first regarding the past work they have done in assessing Scotia's infrastructure when they were looking at the Community Services District model. They are in the process of looking at the water lines, sewer lines, etc. They need to determine where the infrastructure is located in Scotia. Since Scotia has been a private community, they have not had to comply with some of the restrictions that a public city would when they are putting in the lines. The water lines, sewer lines and such would have to be moved to a public right-of-way if it is not currently on one. This would be a major undertaking and if this is needed, Palco claims they will pay for it as a condition of the annexation. Palco has also stated that if an entirely new water system or major project is determined to be needed, they will pay for it as a condition of the annexation. While that may be a part of any agreement, the financial status of Palco should be taken into account; if they file bankruptcy Rio Dell would be left holding the bag. SHN will be developing a "plan of service." That includes their recommendations on how to provide the city services. This will be very important as well. People have been told that the Rio Dell water system was in such bad shape at least partially due to the fact that we haven't had the resources for maintenance. How will Rio Dell accommodate the Scotia water system in addition to their own? These are all details that have to be looked at.
Frequently, the term "revenue neutral" was used as it is hoped that the annexation will not cost anything to Rio Dell. The plan is for the taxes, assessments and fee revenue received to fully cover the costs of providing the services to Scotia. This will have to be evaluated by an outside consultant. The city has received two proposals from companies looking to provide that service. The annexation to Rio Dell is the first step and it is only after that is done that Palco can look at selling any of the properties. There has to be a services structure in place for the homes. That would mean there would be only one "homeowner" at the time of the annexation, Pacific Lumber. That is fine as long as they are in sound financial shape and are not divesting themselves of assets before declaring bankruptcy, or something along those lines.
There is a group of people involved in the "annexation work group" including representatives from Palco, Rio Dell, the various consultants, etc. who are working with the many outside agencies for the various permits and such.
Chris Manson from Pacific Lumber spoke next regarding the company's plan for homeownership in Scotia. The company has looked at various ways to form a town and had decided that the annexation is the best option. That is the only option they are looking at now. Manson stated that the Scotia residents have been meeting regarding the plans and the company has provided access to mortgage professionals and such so that the homeowner could determine if they are able to purchase the home. The purchase does include the entire lot, as some rumors had gotten around that said the homeowner would actually not own the property the house sat on. Manson said that the home prices were not allowed to be discussed at this point as that could be construed as advertising the home for sale before it was legally able to do so. He finished by stating that his door was always open to residents of both Rio Dell and Scotia for any questions they may have.
Shane Wilson from the Rio Dell Fire Department spoke regarding the two separate fire departments. They will be examining the possibility of merging the two.
The citizens who attended had a number of very good questions and various statements regarding the proposed annexation. Dr. Roberts started off with an inquiry as to any advantages to Rio Dell with the annexation. Who is going to provide services and such? John (from one of the engineering firms) stated that the annexation and feasibility studies would answer that question. Shane Wilson replied that the Rio Dell Fire Department currently has an ISO rating of 7 and Scotia has a rating of 4 (I have no idea what an ISO rating is). Wilson said that the lower number that could be achieved with the merger of the two departments could translate into lower homeowners insurance rates.
Resident Dale Swanson asked about who would take on the long term costs of maintaining the infrastructure. He pointed out that "revenue neutral" doesn't refer to the long term. He stated that Rio Dell needed an outside engineer (provided at Palco's expense) to evaluate the proposal from Rio Dell's best interest perspective. An agreement should also include a provision for Palco to contribute to the long term costs of maintenance.
One of the engineer's involved pointed out that they were all examining the proposal from a "best interest" of everyone point of view and that Palco is paying 100% of the costs related to the engineer's costs, application processing etc.
Swanson asked about the costs related to any toxic clean up of the Scotia property. One of the representatives stated that any needed toxic clean up down the line would be the responsibility of the city but would only include the property that was owned by the city, such as the roads. The rest of the properties would be owned by individuals and they would be responsible for any toxic clean up. It was pointed out that a person could also "go back" on a former property owner, such as Palco, and sue them for any clean up related costs.
City Manager Jay Parrish stated that we are verifying things regarding the infrastructure through radio controlled cameras which can view the inside of the water pipelines, sewers, etc.
Elizabeth Warren asked whether or not anyone has researched whether or not the Scotia residents will actually be able to purchase their homes, financially speaking. There are 274 homes which are currently renter occupied. The renter's will be given the first chance to purchase the home but there will be no assistance from Palco for things such as the down payment which is usually the biggest hurdle in the home purchase. The representative from Palco said that all financing options are being explored, including the HUD funded First Time Homebuyers program. To qualify for that program however, a family would have to qualify as low/moderate income and the home would have to qualify with it's purchase price fitting into the tight parameters of the program (see this link for some program guidelines). Palco has brought loan and finance experts to some of the Scotia meetings they have had with the current occupants.
A citizen that I didn't catch the name of stated that Winzler & Kelly had surveyed the property in Weott that a new water and sewer project were installed on. That property wound up being in a flood plane and the system had to be moved at great expense. The water bills for the residents went from $11 to $84 a month after the new system was finished. He stated that Charles Hurowitz (sp?) of Maxxam is only looking out for himself and his interests. The jobs with Palco are being lost and what is Pacific Lumber going to do for Rio Dell?
John Lane asked about the rumor circulating that the homeowners would only own the house and not the land. Manson said that it will include everything; the yard, the weeds, etc.
Resident Debra Garnes asked about the process for annexation. Would there be any vote on the annexation for the residents of Rio Dell or is it just the Council that gets an actual vote. It was explained that if 25% of Scotia submitted a protest to LAFCO, then the proposal would go to a vote for Scotia residents only. The Rio Dell citizens will only have their say through their representatives, the City Council. Mayor Bud Leonard pointed out that if LAFCO felt that the citizens in general were opposed to the annexation, he doubts they would approve it. LAFCO has the final say on annexation so that there is no discrimination against any area that wants to annex to another community.
Parrish stated that "we have a lot of questions but not a lot of answers right now." We are only at the beginning of a long and very involved process.
Garnes advised to pay careful attention to the infrastructure situation in Scotia. Rio Dell citizens had been told earlier that we were shorthanded in Public Works here in Rio Dell and that is why maintenance is not being kept up on. How will we take care of Scotia? We will have to hire more staff at additional expense so that must be taken into account.
A citizen asked about the boundaries that would be included in the annexation. They were told that it is Palco's entire property "bridge to bridge and river bar to water treatment plant." The citizen inquired about the historic buildings in Scotia such as the museum, the theatre and the inn. Palco is going to retain the ownership of those properties as it stands right now. Since they have stated that they want to get rid of the extra activities involved in running a town and focus on their core business, I would guess that they might be selling those properties later on.
Judy Pierett asked why the Scotia residents would be allowed a vote if 25% or more of them objected but not the residents of Rio Dell? John, one of the engineer's involved, stated that the law was written so that the annexed citizens would have a say. They would have to formal government structure to go through but the citizens of the existing city have their elected officials to represent them. Pierett then asked if there were any other options on the table for Scotia, such as the Community Services District model. Manson said that Palco is pursuing the annexation exclusively. He stated that their opinion is that annexation is the best possible option for all involved. She then asked what happens if this proposal fails then? Manson said they would examine the reasons that it failed, restructure the proposal and try again.
Dr. Roberts suggested that Hurowitz simply give the Scotia homes to the city of Rio Dell who could then sell the properties and use the sale proceeds to cover the services. I asked if the annexation had to be completed before the homes could be sold. The answer is that yes the annexation has to be completed before even one home could be offered for sale in Scotia.
A citizen named Rich spoke of the water system upgrades that have been costing the citizens so much lately. The water system is better but still not good and we are going to look at taking on another failing system. He stated that Palco has treated Rio Dell like a "dirty step-child." So many of the vices in Rio Dell are there to support Palco. He pointed out that Hurowitz is no philanthropist and is only looking out for himself. He said that if you want something done in Rio Dell you have to go to Winzler & Kelly and through the cities good ole' boys. We know what Palco has done for Rio Dell so far and Rio Dell should be wary since Palco wants this annexation so badly.
Jane Cox stated that she was at the April 18th meeting when the City Council voted to accept the proposal for annexation from Palco and there have been no further meetings on the topic since. She pointed out that it was said earlier that the residents of Scotia have had 3 or 4 public meetings regarding this and she is bothered by the lack of communication. Parrish said that some of those meetings were not specifically about the annexation, Palco had only recently come to the final decision to push for the annexation. Cox stated that better communication with the citizens of Rio Dell would bring in more citizens to participate. Council member Melissa Marks stated that perhaps we could look at doing a mailing to citizens to solicit their involvement. Marks asked if only having two companies proposals for the major reviews of the annexation was sufficient to chose from. She asked if this might need to go back out for more bids. Accounting Supervisor Gordon Eton pointed out that even if it went back out to bid, we may not get any different response. He suggested that even if we were to get only one good proposal, if the company was experienced than he would recommend accepting that bid.
Cox asked about the future monthly meetings that are planned. She was told that no date has been set yet and it will be posted when it is scheduled. Cox pointed out again that the lack of communication to the citizens is a problem that could be easily resolved. Police Chief Graham Hill suggested that the city might put an announcement on the water bills, as it has done in the past for various things. Parrish stated that the current water bills going out already had two items posted on them so it would have to be the next billing cycle at the earliest. Read your water bill carefully and notice any information the city has added. The mailing idea of Melissa Marks is a very good idea and in the past we have had citizens volunteer to help the city with printing these, contributing paper or anything else that would assist the city to communicate better. We saw the results from a mass mailing when everyone received an announcement of the city council meeting and the proposed water rate hikes last year. The attendance was at record levels and it was standing room only in the council chambers. The Scotia annexation is just about the biggest issue to face Rio Dell since incorporation.
Council member Julie Woodall suggested that citizens could submit their questions to the city prior to the next meeting so that information can be available by meeting time. Woodall wanted to know "revenue neutral" for how long? This annexation is for the long term and it must be evaluated in that way.
Parrish pointed out that if Palco had wanted to, they could have gone directly to LAFCO with the proposal instead of going to the Rio Dell City Council. This was done as a courtesy and with the desire to work closely with Rio Dell. This would make it appear that the approval of the annexation by the Rio Dell City Council is more a formality than anything else. It was pointed out earlier in the meeting by Council Member Mike Dunker that no final decision has been made as some of the citizens present stated their belief that the decision was already made by those in charge. I do believe that some of the council members are giving the annexation the review that is necessary and have expressed some skepticism. It is also apparent that there are others involved that believe the annexation is the best idea and their minds are made up. It is important for the citizens to be involved, no matter what side of the debate they fall on. A person can't complain about their government if they are not doing their part by participating.
We will post any information we have regarding any meetings or anything else related to this annexation proposal. Please get involved and attend the meetings. The effects of the annexation will be felt by everyone, both good and bad.