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Harbor annexation moving slowly

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

Although Crescent Citys harbor has requested annexation twice in last two years, there is no firm estimate of when the annexation might be complete and zoning issues stand in the way.

Just how soon the harbor might be annexed is a key question, because any new development that might support new businesses would require city water and sewer hookups.

City Manager Dave Wells said this week that the harbor annexation is moving slowly forward, but much remains before the deal can be done.

Weve identified the proposed boundary, the (current) zoning analysis has been done, the preliminary financial figures have been put together, we have a draft services plan, so as far as the process goes, we are close to being ready to submit an application, Wells said. But there are some significant questions remaining.

One of the biggest questions is the harbors business development plan.

The last useful harbor plan was adopted in 1986 but has since become so antiquated it is not relevant today. Another plan was adopted in 1996, but it was never adhered to because of political reasons. Another plan was finished in 1999, in anticipation of annexation, but it was rejected by the commissioners. Now the harbor is looking at developing a new plan.

Were waiting for them (harbor commissioners) to move ahead with their development plan so we can see what they are looking at regarding land uses, said Wells. If their zoning were to remain the way it is now, it would simplify the process. But it complicates the process if the zoning is to be changed.

This appears inevitable as the Board of Harbor Commissioners is currently seeking funding to create the new plan. The commissioners adopted a resolution last week asking Crescent City to apply for a $35,000 block grant from the state which can be applied to the harbor. This money would be used to finance the plan.

Del Norte County, which can also apply for the same grant, has indicated it will donate its portion toward creating the harbors plan.

In the meantime, Harbormaster/CEO Rich Taylor said earlier this week he requested City Council place on its agenda a request for the block grant which will fund the development plan. This will probably appear on the councils next meeting on Jan. 22.

Wells said the harbors zoning and land use is an issue because once annexed it will become part of Crescent Citys overall general plan and the two need to be consistent.

Another problem for the annexation process is if the zoning is changed it will have to be submitted to the California Coastal Commission for approval.

We could proceed with the current zoning and land uses, but we would be doing so with the knowledge it could be interrupted, said Wells. And if it is interrupted, the zoning will have to be approved all over again.

Another problem for the harbor is the chicken-or-the-egg syndrome; the harbor says it needs city services to develop, while the city says it needs to see planned development before it can provide services.

Wells said there is a way to get water hookups to the harbor on a case-by-case basis but it is a gamble for potential businesses.

A business would have to complete its permitting and surveying processes first, and then apply to the city for services which Wells said would be promptly rejected. City ordinances do not allow services to be provided outside city limits.

But, the business could then appeal to the city council for an exception, which they are allowed to grant. Whether or not a business would want to invest its time and money on such an appeal is the question.

Harbor Commissioner Bev Noll said there is another scenario to this which may make more sense.

I dont know if all my fellow commissioners feel the same way on this, but if we came up with the project, and we did the funding for it, we could then lease it out to a business, said Noll. Now Im talking about something on a small scale nothing grandiose. We would need a master plan first before doing that.

Also slowing harbor annexation work was the need to focus on the Roosevelt-area annexation, where a failing water system required an immediate response.

Because of the circumstances surrounding the Roosevelt area, they are getting full attention, Wells said.

The Roosevelt area is a developed section north of the city which has been under-the-gun with state water officials because of the poor quality of the water provided by the Roosevelt Water System.

The state offered a $500,000 grant to replace the system but it can only be offered to Crescent City and only if the area is annexed. Wells said this inducement put Roosevelt at the front of the list of potential annexations.

Harbor Commissioner Sandie Crockett said yesterday the harbor wouldnt be in this situation today had the board been more aggressive since the request for annexation was first voted on in the late 1990s.

There was some hesitancy on some boardmembers parts to take a step back and to slow it down, Crockett said. Had we actively pursued annexation at that time, when it was a 3-2 vote in favor of it, we would be annexed now and have the water and sewer hookups for our development.

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