Meetings will gauge annexation sentiment

Doug Nieman’s business has always been in Clifton. It just hasn’t always been a part of Clifton.

For a week in the mid-1990s, said Nieman, owner of Clifton Lube Center, 3244 F Road, his shop was in a strip of land annexed by the city of Grand Junction. There was an outcry from Clifton and Fruitvale residents.

“And then we were de-annexed,” Nieman said as he recounted how the proposal — commonly known as a flagpole annexation, with the idea of adding commercial property to a city’s tax base — annexation was snuffed.

“The city was trying to do the wrong thing, annex all the retail without providing any of the services.”

Two decades later, there are still many hard feelings in the community. The impression of Grand Junction as a sales-tax hungry neighbor is hard to let go of for many, but not for Nieman. He is now a strong advocate for all of Clifton and Fruitvale being annexed by Grand Junction.

“I think the best choice is to annex,” Nieman said. “I think it makes more sense than trying to develop a new city out here.”

Mesa County officials are conducting three meetings this week and next about why annexation was determined to be the best option by a committee of Fruitvale and Clifton residents.

For Nieman and many of his neighbors, the issue came down to a lack of government services. Annexation would bring better police protection, code enforcement and street maintenance, Nieman said.

“The county is not able to provide enough services,” he said.

That desire by residents for improved services is behind the push for annexation, not Mesa County, said Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland, who lives in Fruitvale.

The effort to annex Fruitvale and Clifton into Grand Junction began more than a year ago with surveys of county residents, done as part of a neighborhood community plan.

“We had hundreds of people,” Rowland said. “What I heard time and time again is ‘We want municipal services.’ “

But how to accomplish that was the question. Counties typically are not set up to provide municipal-level services. Mesa County estimates there are more than 14,000 residents living in the Clifton and Fruitvale area.

Property owners will be asked to sign a petition if they want to be annexed by Grand Junction. Organizers of the meetings are trying to have those petitions available, but they may not be ready in time.

Either way, Rowland said, contact information will be taken from residents who want to sign the petition and from those who want to volunteer and help circulate the petitions.

Once enough valid signatures are accumulated, the petitions will be handed over to the Grand Junction City Council. It will then be up to the council whether to accept the properties into the city.

“This is not being driven by (Grand Junction) at all. This is being driven by the citizens,” Rowland said.

For more information regarding the meetings, call the senior management analyst for Mesa County, Kimberly Bullen, at 244-1649.

A resident committee looked at three options: Do nothing and remain part of Mesa County, form a new city and, lastly, seek annexation by Grand Junction. That committee “determined that annexation would be the most feasible and cost-effective choice,” according to a county press release announcing the three upcoming meetings.


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