LAFCO monitors Pardee development process

The Dec. 3 meeting of San Diego County’s Local Agency Commission (LAFCO) was the beginning of a 60-day period in which a public agency can request termination of the proceedings which would annex the Meadowood area into the Valley Center Municipal Water District, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the San Diego County Water Authority, and the North County Fire Protection District.

Should no district provide written findings of financial or service concerns, LAFCO would then proceed with the municipal service review and sphere of influence update process, which LAFCO executive officer Mike Ott believes can happen as early as spring 2013. The annexation of the area into the North County Fire Protection District could be approved the day LAFCO approves the municipal service review and sphere of influence update, although the water-oriented annexations are subject to the MWD and SDCWA terms and conditions process.

“It is a step forward,” Ott said. “It is an important element for the annexing agencies.”

On Jan. 11, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved Pardee Homes’ Meadowood project which will include 397 single-family housing units, 447 multi-family housing units, 13 acres for an elementary school which will be built by the Bonsall Union School District, four acres of park land, 128 acres of biological open space, 47 acres of agricultural open space, 5.9 miles of trails, and a wastewater treatment plant. The Meadowood area is currently in the San Luis Rey Municipal Water District, which is not part of the San Diego County Water Authority. The Board of Supervisors’ conditions included annexation of the Meadowood property into the CWA.

On April 16, the Valley C,enter Municipal Water District board approved an annexation resolution. On Oct. 25 the CWA board approved a resolution establishing preliminary informal terms and conditions to annex the Meadowood area into the SDCWA while requesting that the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California grant conditional approval for annexation of the area into MWD as well as into CWA.

LAFCO is responsible for jurisdictional boundary changes. Although only the 267 acres to be developed were initially proposed for detachment from the San Diego County Regional Fire Authority and annexation into the North County Fire Protection District, the desire to avoid a non-contiguous “island” led to the current plan to annex all 384 acres.

The Valley Center Municipal Water District requested the LAFCO annexation resolution, although Pardee Homes is responsible for all annexation and processing fees. Even if no termination procedure is filed, the annexations must still be approved by the LAFCO board. The termination proceeding requires written findings supported by substantial evidence that a financial or service concern exists. A financial concern means that the uses within the territory to be annexed would not have the capacity to provide sufficient revenue to pay for the full cost of providing services while service concern means that the district would not have the ability to provide the service without imposing service level reductions on existing or planned future uses in the district’s current service area. If no resolution supporting termination proceedings is submitted to LAFCO by Feb. 1, the annexation process will continue.

“We see that as just another step in the process,” said Valley Center Municipal Water District general manager Gary Arant. “We’re moving forward.”

A municipal service review evaluates services provided and anticipated needs. A sphere of influence study determines boundaries best served by that particular agency. A sphere of influence change does not necessary equate to an annexation, consolidation, or other boundary change, although a sphere of influence update is a prerequisite to any boundary change which would add the annexed area into the sphere of influence.

“This item can’t go forward until an update of Valley Center’s sphere can be conducted,” said LAFCO governmental services chief Ingrid Hansen.

A sphere of influence update and a municipal service review can be adopted the same day, although they must be done as separate agenda items and the municipal service review must be adopted first. “One has to occur before the other,” Ott said.

An annexation must follow a sphere of influence update and must also be a separate agenda item, although it can be adopted immediately following the sphere of influence approval. “They could conceivably be at the same meeting,” Ott said.

Although the fire district annexation might occur at the same meeting as the municipal service review and sphere of influence approvals, the multi-step process between water agencies involving preliminary and final terms and conditions is estimated to take between 12 and 18 months.

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