MARTINEZ -- The county agency that regulates local government boundary changes on Wednesday approved the city's bid to annex part of the Alhambra Valley, but opponents vowed to force a vote.
The Local Agency Formation Commission approved Martinez's annexation of 104 parcels -- 316 acres -- in the Stonehurst, Alhambra Valley Ranch, Deer Creek and Valley Orchard subdivisions. The annexation area also includes four parcels that sit outside those subdivisions. Supervisor Federal Glover, who represents Martinez, voted no.
Opponents can force a vote if 25 percent of the registered voters or landowners in the proposed annexation area file a written protest with LAFCO, which will hold a protest hearing in the next 35 days. It's unclear at this point how many people must file a protest to trigger an election. Homeowners whose properties are bound by existing agreements to one day join Martinez can't file a protest.
Cathe Cracknell, whose house on Valley Orchard Court is in the annexation area, said a new group called Protect Our Right to Protest will work to line up enough challengers.
"There is an uprising occurring," Cracknell said. "That's all we want, we just want to vote."
Opponents believe annexation will ruin the valley's rural character and lead to poorly maintained roads and slower police response times. Valley residents who are annexed also must help repay a $30 million parks bond Martinez voters passed in 2008.
City leaders originally proposed annexing 139 parcels across nearly 400 acres in the valley, the semirural area south of Martinez. Facing a likely referendum, the council last month reduced the area so it primarily includes properties bound by deferred annexation agreements.
When Stonehurst and Alhambra Valley Ranch were built in the 1980s, the deeds included a stipulation that the houses eventually would become part of Martinez. According to the city, property owners or developers of the other subdivisions also signed deferred annexation agreements in exchange for water service from the city. Martinez staffers say the city has 99 signed agreements, but opponents have disputed that number.
According to LAFCO attorney Sharon Anderson, the state attorney general's office says deferred annexation agreements are legal and run with the land. To determine whether residents are eligible to file a protest, LAFCO staff will verify the date the deferred annexation agreement was recorded with the county and whether the homeowner bought the property after that date.
LAFCO commissioners rejected several alternatives to the city's revised annexation area, including adding seven parcels along Vaca Creek Way and Vaca Creek Road. The approved annexation boundary runs down the middle of Vaca Creek Way -- meaning three houses now are in Martinez, while two remain in the county.
At the meeting Wednesday, LAFCO commissioners wrestled with the fact that although Alhambra Valley residents don't want to join the city, LAFCO has urged Martinez to annex those areas where it provides water service.
"The last thing the city needs is an angry subset of the community," said Commissioner Don Blubaugh, a former Martinez city manager. "In reality, Martinez is doing what LAFCO and the law has encouraged them to do."
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.