Annexation petitions circulate in Fruitvale
Annexation petitions are circulating in the eastern half of Fruitvale.
The petitions are being circulated only to property owners. The question: Do you want to be annexed by the city of Grand Junction?
Mesa County sponsored three meetings earlier this month to inform residents about the petition process and the reasoning behind the effort.
It also sponsored a telephone town hall-type meeting Thursday, calling affected property owners in the eastern half of Fruitvale who are registered voters.
WHY CONSIDER ANNEXATION?
Mesa County Administrator Jon Peacock said that when the county did a community plan for the Clifton area in 2006, the one request officials kept hearing again and again from residents was that the area needs more municipal services such as code enforcement, police, sidewalks and street lights.
In order to get those services, residents could either form a city, create special taxing districts or annex into Grand Junction. The county helped form a resident committee to explore the options.
That committee came to the conclusion that the least expensive and most efficient way to bring urban-level services to the Clifton/Fruitvale area was for annexation by Grand Junction.
The area proposed for annexation is roughly described as east of 31 Road to 33 Road, north of the Colorado River to Interstate 70.
The area annexation would occur in three phases.
The first phase is the eastern half of Fruitvale. This area is roughly described as east of 31 Road and north of F Road and northwest of Interstate 70 Business Loop.
The county has set no time line as to when residents in the other two phases would be asked to voice an opinion on annexation.
Those two areas are roughly located east of 32 Road and east of I-70 B to 33 Road.
Kimberly Bullen, a senior analyst with Mesa County who has worked on the Clifton/Fruitvale plan for the past two years, said the county chose to use the property owner petition route to annexation “because that is the current process used by the city of Grand Junction to consider annexations.”
During one of the neighborhood meetings regarding annexation, Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland was asked the same question.
“This is for property owners because they pay the property tax,” she said.
Property taxes comprise about 20 percent of the county’s revenue for 2009, said Jessica Peterson, county spokeswoman.
At each of the neighborhood meetings, which were attended by 50 to 80 people, there were “count me in” cards and comment cards available. People could fill out the cards and have a petition brought to them to sign or they might be contacted later to volunteer and help circulate petitions.
Hired by Mesa County to coordinate the petition drive for $40,000 is the Denver-based firm of CRL Associates.
Last weekend started with 15 volunteers from the local area and six paid petition circulators, who are being paid $15 an hour, said Sean Mayle, a spokesman for CRL.
Bullen said each person is given 100 petitions to bring to specific property owners.
There are two routes the county could have taken for the annexation question.
The first one, the method chosen by Mesa County, allows for petitions to be circulated to property owners. If a majority of the property owners, who hold title to a majority of the lots and more than 50 percent of the acreage in the area to be annexed, agree to be annexed, then the petition is submitted to the Grand Junction City Council.
A signature is equivalent to a yes vote. A refusal to sign equates to a no vote.
The second method would also start with a petition drive, but end with a popular vote. The petition would have to be signed by 75 qualified electors. A question about annexation would then be placed on the ballot for a popular vote, according to state law.
A third method for annexation, which is not an option in the case of Clifton and Fruitvale, is if the area is an enclave.
If this were the case, an enclave may be annexed after three years, according to state law.
THE PEOPLE SPEAK
The petitions must be delivered to the City Clerk’s office 180 days after the first valid signature is obtained.
It will then be up to the clerk to determine if the petitions are valid.
If they are, City Council would debate the pros and cons of annexing the eastern half of Fruitvale into the city.
If the Council were to reject the petition, the area would not be annexed.
Mesa County officials have said that if the area is not annexed it would remain part of unincorporated Mesa County. The county government would continue to provide services, but, county officials contend, those services would not be delivered as efficiently as the city of Grand Junction could.
Residents would have to find other ways to fund increases in service levels if they so desire.