Council makes a mess

Voting down annexation of Chapmantown and the Mulberry district was a mistake

The four members of the Chico City Council who voted against signing an agreement that would have led to annexing Chapmantown and the Mulberry district sure have made a mess of it.

The agreement negotiated between the city and the Butte County Local Agency Formation Commission, which oversees jurisdictional boundaries, was a well-thought-out plan to solve several long-standing problems.

First, it would have made annexation a single, unitary process covering the whole area, thereby sparing individual property owners the burden—and additional expense—of doing it on their own and allowing them to hook up to city sewers at any time.

Second, it would have spared LAFCo and the city of Chico the costs of holding an unknown number of hearings and votes as residents seek to annex in a piecemeal fashion—six houses here, nine there, 15 down the street. Those costs will be passed on to residents.

Third, it would have eliminated the two largest county islands in Chico, bringing them into the city where they belong, enabling residents to vote in city elections and serve on city boards and commissions.

Fourth, it would have given the city five years before annexation was finalized, sufficient time to get its finances healthy enough to provide services to the neighborhoods.

And, fifth, it would have resolved a legal conflict with LAFCo over 62 properties that city officials admit were improperly connected to the sewer. Instead the city is saying, in effect, “Go ahead and sue us.”

We understand that some—perhaps most—Chapman/Mulberry residents prefer to be in the county and want to vote on annexation. But as everyone on the council knows full well, there is no mechanism for holding an election. With their vote, the council majority ensured that the annexation process will be complex, expensive, confusing and frustrating.

And then there’s that lawsuit …