What started as efforts geared toward benefiting the students and faculty of UC Davis has now transformed into a complex issue, on which different sectors of the community are having difficulty coming to an agreement.
On Feb. 2 Davis City Councilmembers discussed the possible annexation of West Village housing development, along with the implementation of a special assessment district to bring participants into agreement.
Councilmembers Sue Greenwald, Lamar Heystek and Stephen Souza are interested in creating a special assessment district that would allow members of West Village to vote on taxes and fees imposed by the university. Councilmembers hope the design of this district, along with annexation, will make the situation more financially motivating.
While the city, county and university all originally supported annexation at the beginning of the project, the three groups failed to agree on the execution of taxes and authority. UCD is willing to annex West Village only if both Yolo County and the city of Davis come to agreement upon terms.
The inability to reach fiscal neutrality, as well as negotiating short and long-term costs are creating issues, according to the city’s staff report.
Mayor Ruth Asmundson and Mayor Pro Tempore Don Saylor are primarily concerned with the amount of time being dedicated to annexation. Other issues are authorization of land-use and whether or not residents of West Village can vote in city elections.
“The discussion of the annexation is unfortunately a distraction from the collaboration we need to be focusing on,” Saylor said. “Annexation is not a feasible option at this time. The financial realities that face all three entities and the need to treat similarly situated persons in similar ways undermine the desire to annex at the moment.”
Due to recent budget cuts, Yolo County would prefer to collect the $232,000 per year in property taxes that it would receive if West Village were not annexed.
“Further, the current West Village fiscal studies indicate a significant difference in revenue to the county under annexation versus no annexation that would have to be addressed. Given these and other concerns, it is the consensus of the subcommittee that the county would prefer at this time the West Village project not be annexed to the City of Davis,” said Robyn Truitt Drivon, Interim County Administrator in a Sept. 29, 2009 letter addressed to city Manager Bill Emlen.
However, if the city does choose to annex West Village, there will be a surplus of $240,000 in vehicle license fee money given by the state to the city. The city has about one year left to make the decision before residents will move in and the state will withhold this money.
Greenwald said annexation doesn’t pencil out right now. She encourages students to mobilize around this issue. If discussion ends and annexation does not occur before residents move in, then the city loses $240,000.
“The city just wants to be fiscally neutral with this project,” Greenwald said. “The county wants to make a profit. Personally, I think they should also be striving for fiscal neutrality because it’s offering affordable housing and helping students. Fiscally, as well as in terms of doing the right thing, in a civic sense, it makes sense to annex.”
West Village is a 220-acre mixed-use community west of Highway 113 and south of Russell Boulevard that will soon offer affordable housing to students, faculty and staff. Developers of the project approximate that the new site will house about 4,350 people. Planners expect to begin construction of the homes in spring 2010 and have them available for purchase in fall 2011.
The West Village was designed based upon housing affordability, environmental awareness and a network of open spaces and parks. Smaller units are priced at around $400,000 and will fluctuate over time depending on the salaries of faculty and staff, rather than the local market.
The meeting concluded with a 3-1 vote to continue annexation efforts, with Saylor voting against the decision.
“What I hope we can do now, is we need to work to assimilate the new residents into the community, into the life of the community,” Saylor said.
SAMANTHA BOSIO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.