ANTIOCH -- Nearly 200 people who live in the unincorporated area off Viera Avenue may soon become Antioch residents, whether they want to or not.
As Antioch and Contra Costa County officials continue to negotiate a complex annexation package for 678 acres to the city's northeast that would bring GenOn Energy's 760-megawatt power plant within the city, much of the recent discussion has focused on the 108-acre rural tract of large lots and isolated properties.
The county agency that oversees boundary changes is considering waiving the hearing process for Viera residents to vote on the annexation.
Ken Wentworth, who lives on the gravel road of Trembath Lane, sees it differently.
"It's annexation without representation," he said.
But, under state law, a county's Local Agency Formation Commission has the authority to approve annexation without a vote of property owners or registered voters for pieces of unincorporated land surrounded by a city or "land islands."
The land islands must meet certain conditions, including being no larger than 150 acres and substantially surrounded by a city or adjacent cities.
That process has been used "hundred and hundreds" of times in California counties but not recently in Contra Costa County, Executive Director Lou Ann Texeira said.
Many residents in the area, which drew international attention in 2009 because of the Jaycee Dugard kidnapping case, have expressed a desire to keep their bucolic way of life.
"My wife and I purchased (our property) both for what was here and what wasn't here," Wentworth said. "One of my concerns is that they'll expand the street through, take out a chunk of property in front of my house and charge me to hook up water and sewer."
Antioch has looked at annexing the rural area about three times in the past 30 years, but plans fell through, said John Mitosinka, who has lived on St. Claire Drive since 1952.
"It ought to be left the way it is," Mitosinka said. "It seems like they are trying to dispense with what is our rights."
Possibly waiving a vote of residents concerns Antioch leaders, who requested last week that the city be indemnified -- or shielded from any significant legal exposure -- from the formation commission's action.
The annexation has already faced legal objections on environmental grounds from West Coast Home Builders, an arm of the Seeno Construction Co., even though the firm has no financial stake or property in the area.
Antioch leaders maintain that Viera residents should have the right to protest.
"It's up to us to convince (residents) and give them a reason to be in the city and sell them on the benefits of annexation," Councilman Gary Agopian said. "Our goal would be to provide those basic services without disturbing people or the area."
Antioch surveyed residents in the area in 2007 asking whether they wanted to be brought into the city, said Victor Carniglia, a city-hired consultant.
Of the nearly 60 percent of households that responded, about 75 percent were against becoming part of the city, he said.
The county's land formation commission will continue discussions on the annexation at its meeting next month, including the indemnification option and possibly forming an alternative plan where Antioch provides full city service regardless of whether the area is annexed.
Other steps that must be addressed before annexation include agreement by the city and county on how to split property taxes for the power plant and how needed utility and road improvements will be funded. Antioch must also revise some environmental documentation for the Viera area.
GenOn has offered an incentive to the city and county of $1 million apiece to complete the annexation as soon as possible.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.