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Annexation meeting goes to Final Jeopardy

Posted: September 24, 2009 10:53 p.m.
Updated: September 25, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Thursday's public meeting on annexation in Castaic turned into a local version of Jeopardy as consultant Beverly Burr made repeated references to the popular game show.

"Let's take geography for $200," Burr said.

The audience didn't chuckle but listened attentively as Burr answered a question on whether the city of Santa Clarita would absorb all of Castaic during any future annexation efforts.

"I believe if the community (Castaic) approached the city and asked to be kept together, the city of Santa Clarita would keep the community together," she said.

Groans echoed through the multipurpose room of Castaic Middle School, where the public meeting was held.

Burr's answer and question period followed a public meeting on annexation of the westside communities of Castaic, Val Verde, Tesoro, West Ridge and Stevenson Ranch. Thursday's meeting is the fourth public meeting to discuss a series of reports, which compared three governmental options for the residents on the westside. There will be a public forum Oct. 8 at Santa Clarita City Hall at 6:30 p.m.

In November, residents of westside communities will be asked to cast a nonbinding vote on whether they would prefer to join with the city of Santa Clarita, form their own city or remain in the county unincorporated area.

Burr stayed with the geography category.

"Geography for $300," she said.

Burr read the next question form handed over by a member of the public on a card during the designated question submission period. The question asked whether the city could alter Castaic's rural nature currently protected by Castaic's Community Standards District.

"The city would have to pre-zone the area and reveal any zoning changes before it could annex the area," she said.

In short, the residents would know before annexation whether the city intends to change the zoning of the area, she added.

If 15 percent of the residents filed a protest during the annexation process, the annexation would go to the ballot for a vote. In that case the majority in the affected area would have the final say on the annexation, Burr said.

The closest Burr came to a Daily Double was her attempt to answer a question on the so-called alimony payment. The newly formed city or the city of Santa Clarita would be compelled to compensate the county for tax revenues lost as a result of incorporation or annexation. The estimate of the lost tax revenues is more than $5 million.

"Alimony for $500 or $5 million," Burr said.

She was asked who would pick up the tab for the alimony payments. Burr floated the idea of using the utility user tax and slowly phasing out over a seven year period, which is the usual life of the alimony payments. The county charges a utility user tax, while the city does not.

"Maybe the utility tax could fall from 4.5 percent to 2.25 percent and then phase out," she said.

Final Jeopardy for Burr was a question about representation on the Santa Clarita City Council, if Castaic joins the city.

"If we don't want a Wal-Mart or a MRF (material recovery facility, or recycling plant) we can go down to Los Angeles and Antonovich (Los Angeles County Fifth District Supervisor whose district includes the Santa Clarita Valley) supports us, but if we join the city we have no representation," he said.

Suddenly what looked like a game of Jeopardy started transforming into Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Santa Clarita City Deputy City Manager Darren Hernandez stepped in as Burr's lifeline on the question.

"You can go to City Hall and your voice can be heard by five people instead of one," he said.

Castaic Area Town Council Member Flo Lawrence said the City Council is not a sure bet.

"We have no guarantees of representation from City Council," he said.

Santa Clarita uses an at-large election system where the top vote-getters serve on city council as opposed to breaking the city into geographic political districts.

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