After the topic initially came up during a joint meeting of the Colusa City Council and Planning Commission, ‘future annexations’ was on the agenda for discussion at the council’s meeting on Aug. 7. Although the council ultimately referred the initial discussions on potential annexations back down to the planning commission, both city staff and councilmembers expressed their desire to get the process moving, with a focus on identifying and adding commercial and industrial growth areas.
“We’ve gotta be able to broaden our horizon and be able to create some more opportunity down the road for us,” City Manager Jesse Cain said. “Right now, we’re limited on space and opportunity, and we’ve been lacking that for a number of years.”
There will be plenty of hurdles with any potential annexations: getting buy-in from the property owners, the approval process through the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), establishing tax-share agreements with the county – as well as the up-front costs the city will have to bear. The biggest challenge, Cain said, would be the infrastructure and planning associated with any potential annexation, and figuring out how the city could fund that. Cain said he felt the city must work through those challenges to help ensure the long-term economic health of the city.
“It costs us money,” Cain said. “Since we’re gonna be the ones instigating annexation and it’s not a developer, this is gonna be on us. But long-term, down the road, the goal is to create opportunity for the City of Colusa – to get some type of industry, to get some kind of growth here… I don’t want to grow very big, to be honest with you – I don’t ever want to see us over 10,000 (population) – but I do believe that we need some commercial activity, and we need some type of industry, some type of ag coming in here to create jobs.”
Mayor Greg Ponciano said that unless the city annexes additional land, they have virtually no inventory of land suitable to commercial or industrial activity. Councilman Dave Markss asked that the process of annexation begin with the planning commission, which the council agreed to by consensus.
“My thought is the planning commission starts the process, looks at these things, and my opinion is let them start the ball rolling, and let them think about what works, (and) what may not work – versus us trying to say ‘This is what we want you to do,’” Markss said. “That’s kind of the whole thing for the planning commission, I would think, is planning.”
Cain said he would bring the item back to the planning commission, which would be tasked with deciding “what to annex, and where and why” and then to bring that plan back to the council. He added that it would likely take multiple planning commission meetings to sort out those details. George Parker, planning commission chair, said that he would like to see the council define their overarching purpose for potential annexations, and to begin coordinating with their partners in the county.
“My worry is the share agreements with the county, the LAFCO influences, and the political blow-back that might happen unless we have a defined purpose as a council, saying what is the council really trying to seek,” Parker said. “If it’s to increase the boundaries, I think you mentioned you don’t want to get too big. This could get a runaway train off the rails pretty quick, because we don’t have the infrastructure supported: it is a master plan growth effort within the general plan. I’d be willing to work with my colleagues on the commission to develop some strategies, but all-in-all, I think if this is the beginning of the beginning, we would definitely begin to talk with our partners in the county, with the LAFCO director specifically, because there are processes that will be huge walls to jump.”