Meetings to explore charter city concept

A pair of community meetings early next month are expected to further explore when, or even whether, cityhood might be in the future for a broad swath of land stretching from Vail Lake to Pinyon.

It’s possible that those meetings will reveal that any push to incorporate will require one or more feasibility studies and likely take years or decades to reach a decision.

“It’s not going to be easy,” George J. Spiliotis, executive director of a Riverside County boundary-setting agency, responded recently when asked about the challenges of incorporating rural communities today.

Spiliotis said he has fielded calls “on and off for several years” from Anza-area leaders who periodically explore whether to form a city. He said he typically responds by citing the double whammy of high municipal service costs versus the lack of sales tax revenues generated by largely-vacant rural areas.

“It’s never gotten to the point where a petition has been submitted or anyone (in the Anza area) has done a fiscal analysis,” said Spiliotis, who was hired in December 1989 as executive director of the county Local Agency Formation Commission.

The issues of such a petition and fiscal analysis efforts might be raised at a pair of meetings planned Sept. 1 and Sept. 8.

Bill Johnson, whose partnership owns and operates land around Vail Lake, is hosting a meeting at 3 p.m. Sept. 1 that is expected to explore incorporation and issues and a county program that was launched a decade ago to target and preserve environmentally-sensitive lands.

Johnson has applauded Anza-area leaders who have raised the idea of incorporation as a way of increasing local control over their region.

The Anza Valley Property Owners Rights Team, a citizens group that formed in response to aggressive county code enforcement practices, is expected to give an update on the possible formation of a charter city on Sept. 8. That discussion will be part of a 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. event, which will include a barbecue, at the Anza Community Hall.

The path to incorporation, Spiliotis said in a recent telephone interview, can be long, bumpy and costly.

An initial feasibility study, which would examine whether it makes sense to move forward, might possibly be done by residents or a low-cost consultant, Spiliotis said. A formal feasibility study could cost in the five or six figures depending on the complexity of the work involved, he said.

Some of those challenges have been spotlighted on an internet site created by Anza-area incorporation proponents in those cities at the early stages of their incorporation efforts.

The website solicits donations and volunteers to circulate petitions, make telephone calls or do internet tasks.

“The LAFCO process can be expected to take from 1

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