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Rocklin City Council approves county ‘island’ annexation

Sacramento

The Rocklin City Council voted Wednesday night to approve a controversial measure to annex a 103-acre unincorporated island that it surrounds, despite protests from neighbors.

Many residents of the L-shaped piece of land bitterly opposed the annexation because they say it will upend their rural lifestyle. Several property owners in the Placer County-administered area raise livestock on small ranches, which is prohibited in suburban Rocklin. The island’s 182 parcels extend from China Garden Road in the west to Foothill Road in the east.

The island represents a bygone era, when agriculture flourished in southern Placer County. Before the 1970s, the area was home to fruit tree farms, many owned by Japanese Americans. But as the city grew around the county land, Rocklin officials argued that annexation made sense because of “inefficiencies” in the current two-jurisdiction system. For instance, Rocklin police officers already cut through the island to get through other parts of the city and serve as backup when the Placer County Sheriff’s Office is unable to respond.

Before the 4-1 vote, the Rocklin City Council received an earful from residents of the county island, who raised concerns about future development and questioned the transparency of the process.

“Annexing … without a vote of the people doesn’t seem quite right,” said resident Craig Wood during an emotional presentation before the council.

Wood, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1989, suggested that the council create a new type of rural zoning requirement specifically for the island, calling it the city’s “best bet” for a successful annexation.

But Mayor Scott Yuill responded that annexation was “inevitable at some point.”

The vote sets forward an application to the Placer Local Agency Formation Commission, which under state law is mandated to approve the request because of conditions that fast-track unincorporated island annexations. Residents would not be able to appeal or protest the decision, unlike in standard annexation applications, said Kris Berry, LAFCO executive officer. Still, the annexation process could take several months, she said.

The Rocklin City Council had originally scheduled a vote on the issue in February, but called it off at the last minute after residents turned out in force at the meeting asking members to rethink the proposal. At the time, Yuill said he wouldn’t be opposed to holding an election to have residents decide their own fate.

The sole dissenter on the council, Vice Mayor George Magnuson, opposed the annexation, saying “the most fundamental right of being a citizen of the United States is the right to vote.”

Annexation has the backing of county officials and the district’s supervisor, Jim Holmes, who represents the island and most of Rocklin.

“It’s awkward for the Sheriff’s Department to have to provide services to them,” Holmes said. “The Rocklin Police Department is always there first. That’s their beat. It makes sense to put that into the Rocklin family.”

Resident Pamela Franklin, however, said she would likely move to Auburn once annexation takes place. The retired nurse raises two Barbados sheep, Lola and Adam, on her 1-acre property. She fears that the City Council would green-light further development in the island.

“I don’t trust them,” she said.

Call The Bee’s Richard Chang at (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.

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